Corruption Probe: Customs, Freight forwarders on warpath


The Customs Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali has told the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), that it had no power to conduct a public hearing on corruption by his officers.


The CGC made this known in a letter forwarded to the President of the association, Eugene Nweke, entitled: “Re: public hearing by NAGAFF on serving Customs Officers” and dated December 21, 2015. In a copy made available to journalists,? the service said its “officers are subject to the authority of the Federal Government and not a private association like yours.”


The letter which was signed by the Assistant Comptroller General, Headquarters, Sanusi A.U for the Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali asked the association to forward any evidence it had against any of his officers to him for thorough investigation.


The CGC said the association had no prerogative to carry out a public hearing on officers of the service as such a move remained the prerogative of the Federal Government. “It is government’s prerogative to carry out such a hearing on its officers,” the CGC said in a letter sent to the association.


The service reiterated the zero tolerance of the Comptroller-General of Customs for  corruption saying it would not spare any officer caught compromising the trust reposed in him.


“You are to be reminded that in line with the government’s ‘Change mantra’, the Comptroller-General has zero tolerance for corruption and publicly repeated his resolve to deal decisively with any officer found to have compromised the service trust reposed in him.”


The Customs CG however asked the association to forward any evidence against any officers to the CGC for thorough investigation.


“In the spirit of collaboration for smooth trade facilitation, you are requested 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 have discovered to be corrupt please.”


It will be recalled that NAGAFF had begun a public hearing on activities of corrupt Customs officers at the nation’s seaports. At the public hearing, names of the head of the Customs Processing Center (CPC) of the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos, Deputy Controller Saidu Aliu and his assistant, Assistant Controller Zarma were mentioned.


The association stated that “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 allegations of corrupt practices at the CPC inside the Tin-Can Island port.


“Allegations like un-receipted 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; stoppage of duly released and exited containers at the gates; blockage of passwords of examiners unjustly and benchmarking of imported goods for additional duty assessment.


“Towards establishing the veracity of the entire allegations above, the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit of NAGAFF is organizing a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday December 16, 2015 at the NAGAFF headquarters. Freight forwarders who have information with documentary evidence are enjoined to attend the public hearing.


“The corruption 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 an 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 aluminum coil entered as five per cent instead of 35 per cent rate and aluminum profile of 35 per cent entered as five per cent rate.”