CSNAC demands probe of Nigeria Customs

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It was gathered that the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to urgently investigate the Nigerian Customs for alleged bribery, corruption and forgery.

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In a petition forwarded to the anti-graft commission and signed by CSNAC’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the coalition said it is demanding a full scale investigation be launched into the activities of NCS in view of its alleged strong embrace of corruption, bribery and forgery.

Taking the cue of its petition from a special investigative report of the 31st of December, 2015, of an online newspaper, the Cable, the coalition said the news medium comprehensively reported how the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) is a citadel of corruption, forgery and bribery.

“The undercover investigator rigorously dissected the degree of corruption activities that are perpetrated at every level of operations (ranging from importing to clearing) at Nigeria Port in Apapa, in particular.

“His findings revealed series of sharp practices involving men of the service, other borders and security agencies, the clearing agents, and banks leading to massive short-changing of government revenue.”

“He firstly revealed the study of inflow and outflow of articulated vehicles, the conduct of uniformed men, the transactional conversations of clearing agents and the touting drive of document forgers. Whereby, there is an entry of estimated average of 300 vehicles in an hour despite been informed it was a period of low business.

“He also revealed that Nnemi building’s (close to the port) entrance is populated by agents and forgers of documents (a place similar to Oluwole where there is hardly a document that cannot be forged); as observed influx of people, some entering empty-handed and exiting with sheets of printed paper while others coming in with a few sheets and leaving with stashes of documents.”

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CSNAC noted further that the reporter revealed the incidence of corruption as he entered the NPA gate without a pass with three security officers but later paid a sum of N5,000 as bribe at mufti-wearing Customs officers post (representing the second checking point).

“He proceeded to another Customs Office where he learnt that bringing in cars cost one – third for the price of one. He stated that aforementioned scenario was the first real proof of the bribery and corruption accompanying the business of importation in Nigeria from the filling of Form M on www.trade.gov.ng, to the generation of Proforma Invoice (PI), Bill of lading, berthing of ships to final clearance by Customs.

“Instead of paying full Custom charges to the government, one can pay just one-third to Custom officials, and goods will be cleared. For instance if a charge amounts to N1million, N100,000 is paid to the government; out of the N900,000 balance, N300,000 is paid as bribe to Customs officers, goods are cleared.

“In other words, instead of paying N1million to the government, goods are cleared with just N400,000. It was also disclosed that Nigerian Customs is a “custom of exorbitant prices” and everything is expensive around the port ranging from stationeries to foods.”

CSNAC also stated in its petition that the report also exposed corruption perpetrated by the shipping line companies.

“Most shipping lines in Nigeria are owned by foreigners, as an import-dependent country; importers are left at the mercy of foreign-owned shipping lines. Once, a ship bearing goods berths, the shipping line immediately sends mail instructing that goods are cleared within three days. But it typically take four to seven days for containers to be moved from the ship to the block stacking, where all containers are first kept.

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“A ship may have 1,000 containers making the last 50 containers not to arrive at the block stacking earlier than the fourth day. Yet, these containers are still on the ship when the three-day notice starts reading and consequently, the importers are charged for demurrage, whereby on a 20-foot container and 40-foot container, the importer pays N7,000 and N11,000 daily respectively. This practice is described as a very devilish ploy of exploiting Nigerians”.

“Furthermore, corruption by inspection was disclosed. Nigerian Custom services classifies incoming goods into four: green, blue, yellow and red (Green means the goods are well-trusted and therefore require no examination). But goods imported from suspicious countries e.g. Indonesia, where drug peddling is high are classified as ‘red’ and requiring physical examination.

“Hence importers not only pay Customs for physical examination of goods but also pay shipping agency for demurrage while awaiting the date of examination (shipping lines do not charge daily but upfront of minimum of four days). Invariably, importers have to pay Customs to come for physical examination early since thousands of containers await examination and NCS has somehow legitimized this corruption.

“Interestingly, former Comptroller General of the Service, Dikko Abdullahi, boasted of the service’s generation of a paltry monthly revenue of N29 billion whereas the service now realizes “between N90 billion and N100 billion on a monthly basis” after his departure.

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“The Customs should be declaring nothing short of N500billion to N1trillion monthly, removing Custom officers’ deprivation of the government of N1million, N300,000 or N900,000 for a N50,000 bribe. Thus, this report affirmed that the business of importation and clearing as it currently operates in Nigeria is a huge turnoff for any serious or incorruptible businessman.”

Aside other issues raised in the report, CSNAC said that the report concluded that fighting corruption in the Nigeria Customs Service is not exactly about sacking the you-will-survive-I-will-survive officer or the N500-bribe-taking soldier, or the your-machine-is-undervalued bribe-seeking releasing officer. It is purely about enthroning a custom of institutional probity, about instituting a corruption-intolerant system as well as having technological revolution, rather sticking with the medicine-after-death approach of sacking corrupt officers.

“CSNAC is therefore by this petition demanding that a full scale investigation be launched into the activities of NCS in view of its strong embrace of corruption, bribery and forgery, as well as, the prosecution of any of the other agencies found to be participating directly or indirectly in this acts of national sabotage.

“This will go a long way in serving as deterrent and will also send a strong message to would be economic saboteurs that Nigeria is no longer a haven for such criminal economic activities and that our economy will no longer be left at the mercy of corrupt officers,” the petition said.

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