Saidu Galadima, the Assistant Comptroller-General in charge of modernizing the Nigerian Customs Service, claimed on Tuesday that some elites and heads of ministries and government agencies were using smuggled vehicles.
Galadima made the claim during an interactive session with members of the House Committee on Customs.
The discussion focused on the agency’s efforts to shorten its lengthy cargo clearance stages in order to decongest the country’s ports.
The ACG, on the other hand, claimed that members of the National Assembly were not among the elites involved and that Customs officers involved in the release of such vehicles were being punished.
“Unfortunately, the big men today in Nigeria, I did not say National Assembly members, all their escort vehicles Hilux are smuggled vehicles,” he said.
“MDAs buy smuggled Hilux vehicles. As a result, according to our system, the number of Hilux imports has decreased, but you can still find hundreds of them in town, mostly used as escorts.
“It would go a long way if you made an amendment to the Finance Act to further amend the Procurement Act so that before a vehicle is taken over by MDAs, you should verify the Custom duty.”
“NCS purchases Hilux vehicles, but they do not take delivery until the paperwork is verified that duty has been paid.
“As I speak to you, many officers are being disciplined for this offense at the board meeting.
Leke Abejide, Chairman of the Committee, stated that the National Assembly was working on repealing some provisions in the Customs and Excise Management Act in order to, among other things, streamline the agency’s container transfer process.
He also informed the Customs delegates that they were proposing three stages for container transfers: Controller, DC revenue, and Exit.
“One of the reasons we are doing this interactive session is that we are already working on the Customs and Excise Management Act,” he explained.
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“We want to have an agreement with Customs on a common ground, like all of these transfer processes. But we don’t want to do it by ourselves; we want to do it together.
“We should have it in this committee by the end of the week. So, when the Act is passed, we will sit down and examine it to see how we can assist them. We are currently working on the Act.
“Customs is in desperate need of men. We went out, and when we returned to the command, all of the complaints were that they were short of men and you.
Customs is under-resourced.
“Customs is supposed to have 30,000 men, but there are only 15,000 of them. They won’t be able to recruit the remaining 50% unless they have money.
“They are absorbing 7% of the duty on items. This isn’t going to help Customs recruit. This is one of the initiatives we are pursuing.”
Speaking on the issue of elites and MDAs patronizing smuggled vehicles, Abejide suggested that the executive branch of government do something to tighten the borders.
He also asked the agency for a three-month extension to allow those who brought in their vehicles without paying duties to do so.
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He stated that defaulters should be prosecuted and imprisoned if they do not pay up within the specified time frame.
“Try to improve the checks on this,” he said. We, in government, must also encourage the executive. Someone once asked me why our borders were set up the way they were.
“Walls are built in other countries, but ours is just an iron used to block the road.
“The executive branch of government must do something about the borders so that they can be sufficiently tight,” he said.