ATTEMPTS by the current administration to shove up its non-oil receipts may face a major setback, following threats of a major exodus of some experienced officers of the Nigeria Customs Services who have threatened to dump their service uniforms on account of poor remuneration and working-conditions, investigations by Nigerian Pilot have revealed. “We can’t continue to work in such a harsh environment, with our take-home pay barely enough to meet our basic domestic needs” revealed a Deputy Superintendent in Apapa, who craved anonymity. This newspaper has it on good authority that the on-going recruitment drive by the board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, may have provided the much needed tonic for the planned exodus of some highly competent and trained staff of the Nigerian Customs Service. “Don’t forget we perform basically the same roles as our colleagues at the FIRS,” said an Assistant Superintendent of Customs at the Tin Can Island Port. Investigations revealed that the customs officers are the most poorly paid among parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Finance. An average customs officer is also the least paid when compared with other parastatals in the maritime sector like the Nigerian Ports Authority, NIMASA and Nigeria shippers. A retired Comptroller of Customs who also spoke on condition of anonymity opined that something had to be done urgently before the impending exodus of these highly skilled officers. “How can anyone explain why the workforce of such a high revenue generating agency are treated as second class citizens in their own country? The police, the military and even the recently created Nigerian Civil Defense Corps are better remunerated than the customs. Don’t we go to the same market? Apart from oil, the customs and the FIRS remain the highest contributors to the federation account. “Is it not an insult that an Area Controller of Customs who is an equivalent of a Police Commissioner takes home less than 400,000 monthly, as against a police CP who is paid about N1.2million monthly. Go to NPA and find out; a Level A officer in that establishment earns same pay as a Controller of Customs; that is just not acceptable,” said the retired officer. Also, an officer in one of the border stations said “we are poorly paid. Officers are crying every day, seeking for good postings just to get extra monies for themselves due to the poor pay. Eventually, not everyone could get such good postings.” Commenting on the development, president
of the National Council of Customs Licensed Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwen said the problem of the customs was “self- afflicted.” He added that “when the last administration came up with a presidential committee to reform the customs, what did the then management do? They frustrated the committee; we couldn’t do our job. Let them tell Nigerians what they did with the intervention fund and the seven percent deduction from source. Let them embark on ‘self-cleansing’ and stop blaming the government,” Mr. Amiwen said. In his reaction, customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi said, “I’m not aware of any mass exodus of customs personnel to FIRS who are currently recruiting; but if at all there is any such move, it should be seen as a personal decision of such officers. “It is true that the condition of service of the FIRS is better than that of the customs, that is why the current management of the service is engaging government to ensure that the condition of service of the Nigerian Customs Service is at par with such high revenue yielding agencies like the CBN, NNPC and FIRS, and I can tell you categorically that the response we have gotten so far from government is very favourable and in no distant future, the average customs officer would smile home at the end of every month,” Wale concluded. Industry experts believe that the high rate of corruption in the service is attributable to the poor remuneration and welfare package of officers. A Chief Superintendent Customs in Abuja who pleaded for anonymity told our correspondent that “many of my colleagues are considering leaving the customs for the new FIRS ongoing recruitment.”

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