Against the backdrop of agitations by some Customs officers for increase in their salaries by government as a way of fighting corruption and boosting revenue collection, some stakeholders in the maritime industry have said that the increase, if approved, will not stem corrupt practices in the Nigeria Customs Service.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY argue that corruption among Customs officers has become endemic and can only be checked through automation of cargo clearance processes at the seaports, airports and land borders.
A transport and logistics professional and faculty member at the prestigious Lagos Business School, Dr. Frank Ojadi said, “Usually when Customs increase the welfare and salary of their officers, it is intended to actually make them more serious with their work and at the same time discourage them from taking bribe but a lot depends on the improvement that the Comptroller General is trying to introduce. If the CG is using the improved welfare to reduce corruption, it is going to be impossible because it is an endemic thing. If he motivates them by improving their welfare, then he must also charge them and set a target for higher productivity.”
A freight forwarder and Deputy National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Emma Agubanze however said corruption in Customs is a reflection of happenings in the larger Nigerian society.
“Corruption is systemic in Nigeria. The policies, regulations of government and the laws of imports and exports create the environment for corruption,” he said.
According to him. Increase in salary of Customs officers will not necessarily translate to a reduction or elimination of corruption in the NCS “because corruption is as a result of the greed of human beings and of course the uncertainty of the future”.
He said, “When people are working and they don’t know what will happen to them when they retire from the job; they tend to gather for the rainy day and that encourages corruption.
“Is the improved salary and welfare of the Customs officers coming in the form of providing enabling environment for the officers to thrive; does it include the welfare of the family also and insurance policy but I feel it is not the way to encourage people to be more patriotic to do their job,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, a clearing agent, Frank Aliakor said improved welfare for Customs officers will not stop corruption.
“No matter how much is being paid to the officers, it will not stop corruption because it (corruption) has been in existence for a long period. It does not only exist among Customs, it cuts across different organisations and agencies,” Aliakor argued.
A member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria, Joseph Sanni, also argued that salary increase will not necessary translate to less corruption among Customs officers.
“The reason why I said so is because when it was done during the era of Dikko as the Comptroller-General of Customs, everybody thought it will end the corruption in the service but it became worse.
“The system that runs the process in the port has to be computerized by making the provision of scanners to scan consignment and Customs analysis. There should be good working environment for the officers; cameras at examination points; the government must deemphasize the target given to the officers to aid trade facilitation and also the road leading to the ports should be constructed.
“These are what the government need to put in place and there must be full automation of agencies to checkmate the corrupt tendencies of Customs in the service,” Sanni said.
Another clearing agent, Chukwu Osita also aligned with the other stakeholders’ position.
Corruption, according to him, has become “endemic” among Customs officers “and it is an act that cannot be stopped”.
“No amount of salary can eradicate corrupt practices from the service,” he added.
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