By Ifeyinwa Obi
The Comptroller General Of the Nigerian Custom Service(NCS),Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi has said that the multiple check units of his men at the ports should be blamed on the agents, saying that they have refused to do the right thing.
Abdullahi who poured out the bitter truth recently at his office in Abuja, when top guns of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) led by Prince Olayiwola Shittu called on a courtesy visit, stated that his officers are also complaining that agents have refused to declare properly in order to cut corners.
â€œI am going to talk like a Nigerian and I hope I am going to talk to Nigerians because all of us have a statutory responsibility first to make Nigeria great because we don’t have any other country apart from this country,â€ Dikko stated shortly after congratulating Shittu on his recent election as National President of ANLCA.
â€œYou are all complaining and customÂ officers are also complaining. You are complaining of multiple customs units around you but the question is why are there multiple customs units? The answer is simply because you refuse to do the right thing.
â€œIf you remember, customs officers before now used to collect duties in cash and kept in their drawers and then take to the bank at the close of the day’s work but today all that has changed. The changes came about because of the perception that customs is a corrupt institution prompting the introduction of Pre-shipment inspection whereby everything was defined on paper and the only thing left was for you to go and pay your duty at the bank after assessment.
Everything has been taken away from customs except physical examination. The aim of government is to do away with corruption and that is why government introduced ASYCUDA so that everything can be done electronically. â€œImmediately upon my assumption of duty, we have gone further and now we do paperless transaction whereby we are minimising contact between importers/agents with customs but still you people are not happy. Is it the system or ourselves?â€ Dikko asked his visitors rhetorically.
â€œIt is we. The whole issues here bother on sincerityâ€, Dikko stated. Dikko pointed out that the multiple customs units in and around the ports were necessitated by the insincerity of importers and agents especially those who do false declaration in order to evade paying appropriate customs duty.
He also charged the ANLCA leadership to wield the big stick against its recalcitrant members and weed out quacks from the freight forwarding business.
â€œIt is painful to see someone wake up early in the morning and go into the port. He does not belong anywhere, he does not have any responsibility or identifiable means of income but only to come out with one million or two million naira for a job he has not done because he is not answerable to anybodyâ€, the customs boss lamented.
While kicking against agitation for the payment of commission from customs revenue to agents, Dikko said that men of the Nigeria Customs Service will not relent in their drive to boost collection of revenue because their remuneration and well being is tied to the amount of money they collect into government coffers’
He charged the ANLCA leadership to create standards by introducing a scale of professional charges for its members.
Speaking earlier, National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu said that the association will collaborate with Dikko to ensure the success of his administration.
â€œI will be making a mistake if I tell you that we don’t have problems but problems are meant to be solved but I like to tell you that we are not here to bring a bag load of problems to you but rather to felicitate with you and to let you know that we are ready to work with you. What you see here today with new nomenclatures and new offices are members of our association who have identified with the vision I had when I was campaigning that we just have to go back, have a rethink and depart from the old ways because the greatest honour we can do to ourselves and to the nation is to help this nation to rediscover itself and we know that there have been reforms in customs, there have been reforms in the federation itself but what have we as agents done? We have not reformed ourselvesâ€, Shittu declared.
The ANLCA President said that licensed customs agents will catch up with the reform train â€œand be ready to do what is right to make the name of licensed customs agents what it should beâ€.
Shittu also commended the Customs boss for intervening in the face-off between customs authorities at Tin Can Island Port and agents which would otherwise have precipitated a crisis at the port the previous week.
Shittu said that his members encounter numerous challenges in the day-to-day conduct of their legitimate business at the seaports, airports and land borders.
He identified the presence of several government agencies operating at the port as a major factor militating against prompt clearance of goods at the port. â€œWe have decided that we shall address some of these politically and some of them legallyâ€, he said.
Apart from the National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, other members of the ANLCA delegation include the Chairman Board of Trustees, Chief Henry Njoku, Vice President, Emenike Nwokoji, the National Secretary, Dr. Okpara Nwogu, Western Zone Coordinator Prince Ozor Chukwura and Northern Zone Coordinator Alhaji Sanusi Wakili. Several other national, zonal and chapter executives were also part of the courtesy call on the Customs helmsman. The statement stated.