By Eric Teniola
AT present the Nigeria Customs Service is run by the comptroller-general who oversees the work of six deputy comptroller generals in the following departments: Corporate Support Services; Tariff and Trade; Enforcement, Investigation, and Inspection; Modernization, Research and Economic Relations; Excise, Industrial Incentives and Free Trade Zone; and Human Resource Development.
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The circular is talking about the sale of petroleum products along the border. The circular is not talking about the closure of border, an issue that must have been discussed at the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President and I am sure the President must have seen the merits and demerits on the need to close our borders.
Even if the President gave such a directive to Colonel Hameed Alli, to execute, we all know how he is extremely close to the President for he is among the untouchables around now, the circular did not say so and there is nothing negative in the circular saying so. I am aware that the untouchables in Nigeria of today get away with anything and nothing will happen to them.
A pronouncement in the circular that Colonel Hameed Alli was carrying out the directive of the President could have given the circular more weight. We are discussing about the powers of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs.
The sale of petroleum products is still under the NNPC and no law has taken that responsibility from the NNPC. According to the Nigerian constitution, all minerals, gas, and oil the country possesses are legally the property of the Nigerian federal government. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is the oil corporation through which the Federal Government of Nigeria regulates and participates in the country’s petroleum industry.
The Nigeria Customs Service was formerly under the Ministry of Finance before 1985. General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, placed it directly under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and that lasted from 1985 till 1992. He later transferred the Customs back to the Ministry of Finance in 1992 and that arrangement is still on till date.
I have read and reread the decrees of the Nigeria Customs Service especially the post of the comptroller general, I never came across in the decrees where the comptroller general of Customs will execute the directive in that circular.
I am equally not undermining the success of Colonel Hameed Alli. Since he became the comptroller-general of Customs, for example, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has generated about N1.002 trillion from January to September. The service recorded the highest revenue of N123.6 billion in July, followed by N118.6 billion in May.
Let’s take a look at the legal framework of the Nigeria Customs Service. The Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 45, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 vests legal authority in the Nigeria Customs Service to act on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria in all Customs matters. This is supported by various supplementary legislations including: Customs and Excise (Special Panel and other Provisions) Cap 45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; Customs Duties (Dumped and Subsidized Goods) Act Cap 87 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria; Nigeria Pre-shipment Inspection Decree No. 36 of November, 1979 further amended by Decree No. 11 of April 19, 1996; Decree No. 45 of June 1, 1992 as amended by Decree No, 77 of August 29, 1993; Customs and Excise Management (Amendment) Act No. 20 of 2003; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The law relating to Customs agents is contained in the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Customs and Excise Agents (Licensing) Regulations 1968 (Legal Notice 95/1968 as amended). Nowhere did I come across the power of the comptroller-general to execute the November 6 circular.
By virtue of delegated authority, the comptroller-general is authorized to issue guidelines and prescribe internal instructions to Customs personnel in accordance with the governments’ rules and regulations as they affect the statutory functions of the Customs Service.
Executive usurpation of powers because one is close to the President is very dangerous. An enlightened and civilized society is guided by rules and regulations.