The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdulahi, came short of borrowing the I dey kampe refrain of then President Olusegun Obasanjo to signal that he was still very much the Customs helmsman, as he used the platform of an industry event yesterday in Lagos to finally clear the air over speculations making the rounds about the extension or otherwise of his tenure.
The Customs boss, who was four years in office last week, disclosed at a sensitization and stakeholder’s forum on the Nigeria trade hub portal held at Apapa yesterday that the rumors are handiwork of those he described as some “internal elements”, pointing out that they were, however, not members of his Management.
“I am here to remind you that I am still the Comptroller General of Customs. Let me assure you that so long Goodluck Jonathan is the President, I remain; and except Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is no longer the Finance Minister, otherwise, I remain; and unless members of my management team are no longer there, I still remain the CG,” Abdullahi said.
Speaking on the Nigeria Trade Hub Portal recently launched by the Service, the Customs chief advised importers and their agents to key into the system, as, according to him, this will reduce delays associated with manual documentation, thereby enabling both the Customs and importers and their agents operate on the same page.
On the issue of serving Customs personnel moonlighting Customs agents and operators of Direct Trade Input (DTI) cafes, the Customs boss was unequivocal that such officers will face appropriate sanctions when caught soon enough.
The Customs boss disclosed that he has deployed some undercover officers to monitor the activities of officers on the issue, as well as of those officers whose passwords are often alleged to have been hacked by agents, even as he vowed to clamp down on them.
“There is no way the system of Customs can be hacked. I am going to disgrace all the officers that are on investigation in Tin-Can Island. I have officers undercover in Lagos; they are here and you don’t know them. Some of them are even in Tin-Can Island Port. They are here taking stock of those officers who operate DTI, licence and those running SGD (single good declaration forms). I must clean the system even if am leaving tomorrow,” Abdullahi vowed.
On activities of certain persons, including the interception of cleared consignments along the highways, under the aegis of the so-called National Taskforce on Illegal Importation of Goods, Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons on Nigerian roads, the Customs boss described these operations as illegal, even as he blamed agents for allowing their goods intercepted by these persons whom he described as “touts.”
The Customs chief explained that at a recent joint meeting of the nation’s security chiefs, it was decided that Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar directs the Police Force to clampdown on any member the National Taskforce sighted in or outside the port premises.”Why do you have to allow your container to be stopped by touts? The national taskforce issue was discussed at a Joint Intelligent board where the Service chiefs met and I tell you the police have started cracking them down. There is a special taskforce by the Inspector General of Police, anywhere they are seen, they should be arrested and prosecuted,” Abdullahi said.Leaders of the two major associations, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Prince Olayiwola Shittu and Chief Eugene Nweke, respectively, and other stakeholders commended the Comptroller-General of Customs for the transformation experienced in the Service.
They, however, harped on the need for training of licensed Customs agents to ensure international best practices.
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