Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), Comptroller-General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), said 91 percent of importers in the country are smugglers.
Ali, who made the disclosure on Thursday, in Abuja, at the public presentation of a book, ‘Appraisal of the Crime of Smuggling In Nigeria’, authored by an Assistant Comptroller of the Service, Musa Omale, said the 91 percent of importers did not comply with the stipulated rules governing goods importation.
He directed all Customs Area Commands to apply more stringent measures to track down the smugglers and paralyse their activities permanently.
The CG, who urged Customs personnel to carry out this mandate to the letter, advised that it was the statutory duty of the NCS to search and confiscate all smuggled items into the country, to save the economy.
He noted that smuggling had remained a major challenge to Customs since he assumed the leadership of the organisation.
According to him, the organisation had lost five officers in only this year in the process of carrying out its mandate of stopping smuggling.
The Customs boss said Section 147 of the constitution gave officers the right to follow suspected smugglers even into their homes in the course of carrying out their mandate.
He said the activities of smugglers had become very worrisome, and that the service could not fold its arms and watch helplessly while smugglers operated to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
Ali warned that Nigeria would never make progress under the mindset that the laws of the land were meant to be circumvented without considering the harm being done to the economy.
The CG said he would continue to provide protective measures to personnel and equip them with relevant weapons to clamp down on the economic saboteurs.
The Customs boss also disclosed plans to flag off the Customs Command and Staff College where mostly retired officers would be invited to come on a regular basis to give back knowledge to the younger ones.
He described the book as apt and timely, noting that it addressed, to a large extent, the dangers of smuggling.
“This book is apt because it is timely; it is timely in the sense that it has captured everything about smuggling, the ills of smuggling, the laws governing our own mandate and the laws governing smuggling.
“So, it is a must-read for the members of the public and it is going to help us in enlightening the general public to understand really the implication of smuggling.
“We have come to understand that Nigerians, especially those living in the border community, do not even understand that smuggling is a crime.
“And this book brought out those facts and put them on the table. So it is my belief that this book is a bestseller.
“I enjoin people to read it because that will give them the perspective of what smuggling is, and the ills of smuggling, and need to stop smuggling,” he said.
In his remark, Omale Musa, the author of the book, noted that the book, among other things, presented in the simplest form the basic provisions in the Customs Establishment Act in order to encourage smugglers to desist from the act.
He said he was motivated by the level of damage smuggling had done to the economy and the country at large having been a Customs officer for 26 years.
“So, I decided to take a course of study, a PhD programme in the university, and my thesis was the legal framework for combating smuggling.
“After my course, I felt I should not throw that effort to the dustbin; I can improve upon it as a Customs officer in view of the dangers involved in smuggling.”
“So I decided to work on my thesis and develop it into an appraisal of the crime of smuggling.
“So that was the basic motivation why I decided to put this book together,” he said.
The book reviewer, Prof Allwell Muzan, carefully dissected the book, chapter by chapter, and concluded that smuggling was a promoter of all forms of social vices, including money laundering, armed robbery, among others.