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N150m bribe rejection: Operators fault Customs

…wants importers identified, punished

By Godfrey Bivbere, Ebuka Oko & Sharon Obiako

Operators in the maritime industry have faulted the recent rejection of N150 million bribe by officials of the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, noting that those involved in the bribery case, and importers of the 40 containers of tramadol should be arrested and punished to serve as deterrent to others.

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While commending the officers involved for the rejection of N150 million bribes, they pointed out that until the culprits are caught and punished, the blatant exploitation of the nation’s economy through such illicit business will continue.

Speaking on the issue, former president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu blamed the Nigerian Customs for lack of patriotic spirit, clarity and drastic measures in curbing smuggling activities bedevilling the economy.

Shittu who made this known in an exclusive interview with the Vanguard Maritime Report, the economy of the nation should be of importance to all government agencies and stakeholders in the industry.

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He however wondered what happened before the containers got to the point at which they were apprehended.

According to him, “The interest of Nigeria should be more paramount interest in the minds of the government officials, security agencies and so on. But then, before these containers can get to where they were intercepted, what  were the security agencies doing, from the time the container landed to the point where examination was done? They need to give us explanation so that the culprit is dealt with. “

He also urged them to review the Customs Excise and Management Act, CEMA, in order to strengthen the laws and punish the offenders severely.  “I think the inability to deal with people involved in such act is responsible for why others continue to take risks.

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“If for example we have identified the importer and those involved in the bribery and have them jailed for 30 years or 50 years, others will sit up. Customs should go and look at their Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, all those areas where offenders are supposed to pay fine, they should review them, you understand, let them pass long sentences, let people suffer for trying to put Nigeria economy in bad shape.”

While commending all the officers involved in the bribe offend to turn a blind eye to allow the contraband into the market, he called on the Customs management to reward them and others in the same category.

“Because I want to tell you, smuggling is the worst thing that can happen to any economy. So, they need to re-strategize, check all the laws, and then reward those officers who are able to refuse money, not necessary this N150 million, but the ones who have been refusing before now.”

In his own remark, the former president of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarding (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke, hinted that the recent increase in seizures by the Customs may not be unconnected with the accusation by the League of Maritime Editors.

Recall that the League of Maritime Editors through its President, Kingsley Anaroke, had accused the NCS for working against the anti-corruption drive of the Federal Government.

According to Nweke, “The whole thing is against the background of what the background of what the league of maritime editors wrote against the Customs and the Comptroller-General called for a meeting and they started doing their job rightly because the report from the league of editors just made it clear that they weren’t doing their job as they ought to.

The former NAGAFF boss said that there has been negligence on the part of Customs officers on the issue of proper interception of the drugs for some time now and challenges them to wake up and embrace the global security trend in international trade.

“At the global level, the International trade has introduced the security supply check. What it means is that every Custom must apply every security tool to checkmate goods coming from outside.” he added.

 

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