How Compt. Garba Started Anti-Corrupt War At FOU Ikeja
Mr. Jerry Attah is Public Relations Officer at the Customs Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A Ikeja. In this interview with MMS Plus he explains how FOU has been able to up the ante on anti-smuggling since the arrival of a new Customs Area Controller at the command. He also bares his mind on several issues affecting customs operations.
How is your command preparing for the take off of the executive order by the Acting President on 24hrs operation at the nations ports?
The executive order affects the entire maritime industry. There are lots of stakeholders involved, not the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) alone but at the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), what we are here for is to ensure compliance, basically we are here to ensure compliance so that smuggling is reduced to its barest minimum. The fact that we are at the hub of anti-smuggling operations shows that we are focused on the anti-smuggling vendetta and to block all revenue leakages.
So the 24hrs clearance is achievable, if all machineries are put in place as promised by the government, why not? It is achievable but it is something that we can achieve only when all stakeholders work together.
You just talked about the need for government to put certain mechanism in place. What are these challenges that need to be addressed before actualizing this goal?
Whether you like it or not, in every family, there is one challenge or the other. You will agree with me that in our ports all our scanners aren’t functioning but as I speak to you, there is a team on ground to do on the spot assessment of those scanners along all the ports and even at the border stations. This is a step in the right direction. That is one thing that the government has taken upon itself so it is working assiduously to ensure that scanners are put in place because it would also help to enhance the ease of doing business at the ports.
How has FOU fared under the leadership of a new Customs Area Controller (CAC) Compt. Mohammed Garba?
Although it is barely a month since the new CAC, Compt. Mohammed Garba came in, but he has held series of meetings with sectional heads and patrol leaders. He has also held a media parley with journalists; at least to partner with them on how best we can perform our statutory functions in anti-smuggling operations
He came with a mandate to intensify anti-smuggling operations, block all revenue leakages and also ensure that legitimate trade is facilitated. Since he came on board, we have intercepted various contrabands with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of over N334million, while we recovered a total of N275, 675,138.75 as duty payments and debit notices (DN) on general goods that tried to beat the system from seaports, airport and border stations in the guise of false declaration, transfer of value, and shortchange in duty payment that are meant for the federal government of Nigeria.
Last week, there was an interception of a bus loaded with several bags, used in concealing Indian-Hemp which amounts to 384 parcels of 232kg with DPV of N18, 432,000.
Does your command have a revenue target?
No, we are not a revenue generating unit we are anti-smuggling unit. So we don’t have any revenue target. However, there are times when we intercept containers and we notice that they shortchanged in the government in payment or undervalued items released from the ports, we raise Debit Notice for them here as a form of intervention, so we also recover some funds from such intervention.
In April and May this year, we realized over N250,000,000 million, from intervention on duty payment on goods that tried to beat the system in terms of false declaration, transfer of value and others.
How would you react to the alleged corruption in the customs?
Just as you said allegations, there is nowhere in the world that corruption is not present. Even in families. Corruption is everywhere, it is not about customs. That is what this government is fighting to be sure the needful is done in society. It is not just a custom affair; it is what the federal government is fighting against and the Nigeria Customs Service is doing its part to ensure that those who have corrupt tendencies are booted out of the system.
Having agreed that corruption is everywhere in Nigeria not peculiar to the customs; do you have any suggestions on how corruption could be fully eradicated?
The governments have started it already; they have anti-corruption agencies functioning. Even in customs, we have a compliance team. Like I told you, FOU is more of a police to customs and other commands. We ensure that the right thing is done. The current Comptroller-General Col. Hammed Ali (Rtd) is also doing everything possible to curb corruption by ensuring the welfare of officers is taken care of and also in accommodation. Therefore, officers have no option than to do the right thing. Everybody has to up his game to make sure that the law doesn’t catch up with him/her.
How would you appraise the recent reforms introduced in the customs such as the introduction of examination desk offices at all customs commands and streamlined of import and export documentation?
All those are reforms to enhance of ease of doing business at the ports. That is the federal government initiative to ensuring ease of doing business. The 24hrs operation in clearance of goods as highlighted in the executive order is also another step to enhance port efficiency via timeliness.
What are the basic challenges affecting the Customs in Nigeria?
In terms of challenges, the few we can talk about are accommodation, operational vehicles, etc. Government must put them into consideration because these are germane to Customs officers functioning effectively.