National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, has observed a growing wave of “systemic corruption” in the nation’s ports, and subsequently raised the alarm, that an intense atmosphere of fears, under which officers were presently working, may not lead to optimal performance.
The body made the observation through his Deputy National President Logistics, FWDR. Ugochukwu Nnadi, noting that the NCS, aside of being a global affiliate of WCO is also both, a highly technical Government department, as well as a member of the WCO, which is “the technical division of World Trade Organisation”.
“The situation at the ports as it is now indicates that systemic corruption is on the increase at the ports, because most of the officers are of the belief that they may either be retired or transferred. It is therefore a situation whereby you get what you can, because you do not know what happens next”, the NAGAFF observed, adding that the development is great concern, to stakeholders. More so, because, aside from the fact that the hydro scanners are no longer properly working, physical examination of containers are also, no longer an attraction or a responsibility for obvious reasons.
“This situation is not only a threat to revenue but also a public interest concern. It is most unfortunate that Government even though may have good intentions in the business of governance, there is the need for consultations to be made with the stakeholders and other concerned parties before arriving at conclusions on port related matters and administration.
“We have indeed noted the retirement of officers in the ranks of DCGs, ACGs and Comptroller cadre. It is the opinion of NAGAFF that there is the need to exercise restraint to avoid throwing away the baby with the bath water. It is also important that care and circumspection are observed to avoid brain drain in the personnel and liquidity of the Service.
“We wish to acknowledge the fact that Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali had accepted the fact that NCS personnel cannot be separated from the greater numbers of Nigerians on matters of corruption. We consider that a plus for the Customs; for the reasons that the CGC is a man of honor and integrity”, the body observed further, tasking serving officers and men to exercise caution, while demonstrating genuine loyalty to a constituted authority, working on a roadmap towards successful nation building.
Pointing out that “Government at all levels is next to God with powers of coercion to actualize its objective for the good of the greater numbers”, the NAGAFF, a body of strong Nigerian freight forwarders, stressed the need for transparency and care, while avoiding the temptations of striving to introduce “Georgian reforms in a corrupt society”.
“It is the opinion of NAGAFF that the ongoing reforms and restructuring be made to be transparent to avoid undue speculations of witch-hunting. In the instance wherein it is alleged that the expected workforce for Comptrollers in the Service may be 75 officers, where there are over 140 Serving Comptrollers calls for extreme caution.
“To restructure the Service, it means that half of the Comptrollers will have to go. The modalities to disengage the officers must be transparent otherwise the exercise may attract litigations from the affected. We must appreciate the fact that Customs officers like other civil servants are in contract with the Federal Government of Nigeria and therefore there must be restraint the way they are forcefully retired without reaching the mandatory date and time of tenure-ship.
“This is without prejudices to labour law of hire and fire in private organizations and or as the case may be. We are in a democracy. Decree 17 of 1984 might have shielded Mr. President in matters of sackings as happened in the 1984 purge. We urge public interest and transparency in this regard”, the Deputy National President also said.
Fwdr. Nnadi acknowledged that while the ongoing restructuring and reforms of the NCS is a necessity for the simple reasons that many things had gone wrong in the Service beginning from 2004, it is nonetheless in the public domain that external forces have not helped in the proper management and administration of Customs laws.
“The Nigeria Customs Service as a member of an international body of World Customs Organisation is expected to be sacrosanct in its existence. The emergence of a Veterinary Doctor, Permanent Secretary and Army General respectively in the organization’s leadership in the past may not have helped the Customs.
“When the Service was about to recover from external influences, the Abuja 88 officers became another intruder in the system. Untrained and retired personnel from the Armed Forces etc were injected into the Service at a very high ranking Cadre of the Service. They did not undergo tutelage of growing from the ranks to master the technicalities of being proper revenue collectors of the Customs. This was a measure of destabilization factor in the Service which they have not fully recovered from.
“Till date the 2004 reforms had hit the Service like a thunder storm when some officers in the rank of Assistant Comptroller staged a civil service coup to usurp power and promoted themselves three steps above their colleagues in ranks. They seized power, shut down the zonal offices, and went to headquarters with operational issues rather than policy matters.
“Under the doctrine of necessity the service cannot afford to be a judge in its own matter. Accordingly the mantra of change in Nigeria is the tonic Col. Hameed Ali needed, to right the wrong in the Service over the years.
“The mandate of Mr. President is sacrosanct and should be carried out in the most transparent manner and time limit. We just hope that CGC Ali would have concluded his assignment within a reasonable time when a new and a core officer of the Service should be appointed by Mr. President to save the image of Nigeria in the global world of Customs organizations.
“The emerging new DCGs and ACGs are core competent officers with the capacity to drive the reforms and the restructuring exercise including enhanced revenue collection duty. We shall in due course make further statement to deal with the welfare and living wages of officers which should be the driving force of the reforms”, Nnadi explained further, pledging to support every constitutional and institutional processes and procedures for optimal performance in the Customs ports etc.
Pointing out that by his appointment, serving officers have also realized that the hopes of aspiring to the highest possible professional seat of the CGC had been truncated, the NAGAFF counselled Col. Ali Hameed to also see a need for accommodating “damage control” in his portfolio, highlighting that Col. Ali has a strategic mandate, which execution must come, with a time frame.
“Except otherwise stated it is our view that the primary duty of Col. Ali is to carry out the mandate of Mr. President within the shortest possible time frame to restructure, reform and put a system in place that will ensure maximum revenue collection and accounting. In the opinion of NAGAFF it shall be our desire that Rtd. Col. Ali Hameed may wish to appeal to Mr. President to relieve him off the duty in the Customs as soon as the two aspects of his mandate to restructure and reform the Service are reasonably achieved.
“We are worried that if he dabbles into revenue function of the Service he may likely defile his earned respect and integrity signing revenue documents he may not understand the under belly tone.
“We recall that Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed was arraigned in court for an action he took in the case of Vasuwani brothers’ import. He was freed in court because he was very competent and sure of the action he took as the Comptroller General of Customs.
Otherwise he might be languishing in jail up till now because there is no mistake in revenue matters of the Government and anything contrary is criminal. We do not envisage a situation where the hunter becomes the hunted because there is no mistake in Customs revenue.
The unfortunate thing is that Customs documents have a life span of 7 years before it is off the shelf”, the statement concluded, assuring Col. Ali of groups’ unwavering support!

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