By Gboyega Oni
The National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah has disclosed that the Service would not mind flouting trade facilitation in the interest of national security.
He equally said that the issue of multiple alerts being received by customs agents would continue as long as some stakeholders in cargo clearance do not desist from sharp practices to circumvent the cargo clearance procedures.
Attah stated this on Thursday in Lagos while responding to questions during the briefing of the press on the activities of the Service in 2017 at the Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja Lagos.
He maintained that national security comes first before trade facilitation which could be jettisoned by the Service so as to save the nation from danger, citing the two cases of seized pump riffles that were illegally imported through Tincan Island Ports Lagos in 2017 by the Service.
According to him, “we cannot sacrifice national security on the altar of trade facilitation; we ensure that cargo is cleared fast; collapsed our multiple checkpoints to sizable ones, and clearance procedures shortened.”
While speaking on the successes of the Service in 2017, Attah said the stringent measures put in place by the management of the Service made it possible to collect the unprecedented sum of N1,012,259,006.779.74 in its over one hundred years of history. “What makes us celebrate the trillion figure revenue generated is the stringent measures put in place by the Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) despite many items dropped from import list. We look forward to sustain this.
‘It will be recalled that with five more working days to the end of 2017, NCS announced collection of the N1,012,259,006.779.74 revenue as against N770,573,730,490 set target for the year.
“I am happy to announce that NCS has now collected a total sum of N1,037,102,179.400.58 at the end of the year 2017.”
Speaking on the anti-smuggling drive of the Service in the year, Attah said the reinvigorating anti-smuggling operations recorded a total of 4,492 assorted seizures with duty paid value of N12,777,321,405.74. These seizures included 2,671 pump action riffles, dangerous/illicit drugs, vehicles and rice as 207 suspects were arrested in connection with the seized items.
Saying the Service faced a lot of challenges in the course of making the seizures, the National PRO said the Service derives its power under the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to enter any market or warehouse to seize any goods that flout the rules.
“Experiences in 2017 showed that seizures and their arrangement remained the most challenging because seizure does not deprive the smuggler ownership, it is capable of sending the smuggler to jail. The fear of these possibilities leads to resistance,” said Attah, noting that the resistance comes in various ways including mobilizing of hoodlums to block the road and attack operatives, inducing border community dwellers to provide shelter for them, and using dangerous weapons resulting to injuries and even death.
According to him, six officers of the Service died on duty in the process of enforcing the laws.