Corruption: You can’t probe Customs officers, CGC tells NAGAFF
AS the rift between the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Customs over corruption allegation deepens, the Comptroller General of the Service, Hameed Ali, has pointedly told the association that it has no power whatsoever to conduct a public hearing on any of his officers over any misconduct.
The Customs boss stated this in a letter dated December 21, 2015 and addressed to the NAGAFF President, Eugene Nweke. Ali said his officers are subject to the authority of the Federal Government and not a private association like NAGAFF.
The letter with title: “Re- Public Hearing on Corrupt Customs Officers”, signed by the Assistant Comptroller General, Headquarters, Sanusi A. U. on behalf of the Comptroller General, asked the association to forward any evidence it had against any of its officers to him for thorough investigation.
“It is government prerogative to carry out such a hearing on its officers. You are to be reminded that in line with the government ‘change mantra’, the Comptroller General has zero tolerance for corruption and has publicly repeated his resolve to deal decisively with any officer found to have compromised the service trust reposed in him,” he explained.
He said: “In the spirit of collaboration for smooth trade facilitation, you are re- quested to furnish the CGC through my office with all the facts available to you that point to the indiscretions of all the officers your association has discovered to be corrupt, please.”
Recall that NAGAFF had commenced a public hearing on activities of corrupt Customs officers at the nation’s seaports. The public hearing led to the mentioning of the names of the Head of the Customs Processing Center (CPC) of the Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos, Saidu Aliu, a Deputy Controller and his assistant identified as Zarma.
According to NAGAFF, “it is in the public notice that since 2013 till date, freight forwarding agents have been complaining of systemic corruption at the CPC under the leadership of DC Saidu Aliu. We have received allegation of corrupt practises at the CPC inside the Tin-Can Island Ports.
“Allegations like unreceipted expenses for re- routing of risk channels to physical examination, and/ or scanning related operations; inherent extortion in local alerting of declaration for Customs purposes; stop- page of duly released and exited containers at the gates; blockage of passwords of examiners unjustly and benchmarking of imported goods for additional duty as- sessment.
“Towards establishing the veracity of the entire allegations above, the Anti- Corruption and Transparency Unit of NAGAFF is organising a public hearing scheduled for December 16, 2015 at the NAGAFF head- quarters. Freight forwarders who have information with documentary evidence are enjoined to attend the public hearing.
“The Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Act 2000 is very clear on the subject matter, which, under Section 19, states that, ‘Any public officer who uses his office or position to gratify or confer any corrupt or unfair advantage upon himself or any relation or associate of the public officer shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment of five years without option of fine.’
“We have reports of allegations that DC Saidu Aliu collects bribe of N500,000 and N250,000 for a 20-feet container of aluminium coil entered as five per cent instead of 35 per cent rate and aluminium profile of 35 per cent entered as five per cent rate,” it stated.