Nigeria Customs Service is one paramilitary group that has remained in the eye of the media and has generated more news than many other sister agencies put together. Here are all the important facts you need to know about the agency.
1. Nigeria Customs was established even before Lord Lugard came to Nigeria
Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria into one entity in 1914. Lugard can be said to be the founder of the geographical entity Nigeria. But before Lugard set foot on the soil of what will turn out to be Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service had existed. Customs traces its history to 1891 when a certain T.A Wall was appointed by the British Colonial Administration for the collection of revenue in Niger Coast Protectorate under the supervision of the Royal Niger Company.
Customs became a department in 1922 which was expanded in 1945 to cover maritime and preventive aspects of the organization. It was only a year before independence, in 1959, that a law was created to back Customs, Customs and Excise Act (CEMA). Military degrees in 1970, 1975, 1977 and 1988 reorganised the agency and gave it additional powers.
Overall, their mandate has remained largely the same, “To excel in the different and timely collection of and accounting for revenue”.
2. Nigeria Customs Service is a revenue cow of the federation
With oil price fluctuating and being mostly on the low side over the past few years and with the need for Nigeria to pursue alternative sources of income, the Customs is one avenue that might considerably reduce the over-reliance on oil by Nigeria. In 2017 Customs announced that they have generated more than one trillion naira in revenue for the republic (1,012,259,6,779.74). A historic one for the unit and a record for all agencies of the federation.
Nigeria budget is a seven trillion naira with less than half of this amount billed for capital projects. One trillion then represents nearly half of what Nigeria spends on projects every year. While this is good news, the better news is the fact that the Nigeria Customs Service is not satisfied with this figure and aspire to shatter this record. In January 2018, the Customs PRO Joseph Attah said: “We are prepared to do more of what we did last year and we look forward to breaking the record of 2017.”
3. Nigeria Customs Service boss will never wear the customs uniform
Perhaps he is outrightly above the law. The Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (Rtd) will never wear the uniform of the agency he heads. He is a former military man and might be diminished if he wears the uniform, his uniform might be stuck in the tailor’s shop, the might have run short of the material for his uniform. We do not know, we can only speculate. But Ali who had never been seen on the uniform was summoned by the senate, in March 2017, to appear on his full customs regalia. He turned up wearing a white caftan where he told the senate no law mandates him to wear uniform.
The senate presided by the Deputy Senate President Ekweremmadu decided he wasn’t ready to talk to them and ordered him to return the following week in the official uniform of the organization he runs. He never returned. He cited a lawsuit barring him from appearing before the senate until a pronouncement is given on the matter. He joked that the white caftan he was wearing was his uniform.
The CG made this remark in Aso Rock, after praying in the mosque closest to the president’s office. He who worships with the president, it seems, dictates the tone.
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This summons saga is not the only clash between the senate and Ali. In January, a senate contingent headed by Dino Melaye had visited the Nigeria Customs Service headquarter on a fact-finding mission where Senator Melaye openly faulted Ali for not wearing uniform and for not receiving the distinguished senators at the entrance of the office complex, accusing him of having breached protocols. “There is no breach of protocol for not coming down to welcome you,” the officer fired back. “Our protocol is our protocol and should be allowed to be.”
4. Nigeria Customs Service is a subject of fake recruitments
Type “Nigeria Customs” on Google and you will be met with countless links on Customs recruitment, more than half of which have expired or are outright make-belief. The agency having been bugged with multiple calls to verify jobs saw their Public Relations Officer of the group Joseph Attah talk to the press in July 2018. “I want Nigerians to know that Customs is not recruiting currently,” he said. “We don’t know how many times we have to say this,” he added irritably.
The top Customs officer asked the teeming job seekers to avoid any Customs recruitment that has an address outside of the agency or that require them to pay any money. According to him, most of the fraudsters use the word “placement” in their ads which is an indication of their fakeness as the military and paramilitary do not replace anyone as they only expand.
5. Customs have intercepted millions of arms and ammunition
If you are conversant with the news, you might have nursed the impression that Nigeria is at war. In September 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted in Tin Can Island Port, Lagos a cache of more than 1000 pump action rifles, send in from Turkey in cartoons marked “wash-hand basins”. A Customs officer and a port clerk were arrested in connection to this.
In January, same year, same port, over 600 units of a horde of the same rifle was seized by Customs. Three persons were arrested for this. In May, 2017 another batch of ammunition being brought into Nigeria through the port that is now becoming notorious for its gun route.
In December 2016, the NCS took possession of two cars laden with arms, ammunition and military equipment shipped in from the US. The suspect, in this case, escaped arrest. Earlier in the year, in February, Customs intercepted arms shipped into Port Harcourt.
In a sum released by Customs headquarters, the operatives of the paramilitary unit intercepted and seized between 2010 and 2017 more than 21 million arms and ammunition. These include fighter jets, pump action rifles, AK 47 rifles, Barreta Pistols, Arg-3guns, fuze of rockets, Air Soft guns, Zinc Alloy Shell pistols, jackknives and all sorts of cartridges and bullets.
The entry point is usually the Tin Can Port but Shaki, Oyo State, the Sahuda Border in Adamawa States, the Idiroko Border in Ogun State, Agbara also in Ogun State, Koko in Kogi State, and Sokoto are some points were smugglers have been intercepted.
While these interceptions are commendable, the fact that most times, Nigerians mostly no longer hear about the arrested smugglers as per conviction, the fact that no one in authority has been implicated, the fact that no gun syndicate has ever been exposed and shut down and the fact that insecurity remains a major challenge in Nigeria are causes for serious worry.