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NAGAFF wants CGC to exercise restraint in sacking customs officers

*Laments
increase in systemic corruption at ports
National Association of Registered Freight Forwarders
(NAGAFF) has called on the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service
(NAGAFF) to exercise restraint in the current reform in the Service that has
led to compulsory retirement of many senior officers.

The association also said that the current situation
in the ports is one in which there is increased systemic corruption, a
situation he described as not the best for the industry.

In a press statement, the National Deputy President,
Logistics, FWDR. Ugochukwu Nnadi, said most of the officers have become
apprehensive of possible retirement with the way the new Comptroller-General,
Col Hammed Ali (rtd) has been carrying out his reform mandate.
Nnadi said that based on this fear, many officers have
embarked on aggressive corruption for the fear of not being sure of how long to
remain on the job.
“The situation at the ports as it is now indicates
that systemic corruption is in the increase at the ports because most of the
officers are of the belief that they may either be retired or transferred. It
is therefore a situation whereby you get what you can, because you do not know
what happens next. Aside from the fact that the hydro scanners are not properly
working, physical examination of containers are no longer an attraction or a
responsibility for obvious reasons”.
NAGAFF said that such trend has become not just a
threat to revenue generation but also of public concern.
“This situation is not only a threat to revenue but
also a public interest concern. It is most unfortunate that Government even
though may have good intentions in the business of governance, there is the
need for consultations to be made with the stakeholders and other concerned
parties before arriving at conclusions on port related matters and
administration.
“The truth is that the appointment of Col. Ali Hameed
came as a mix feeling to the officers and stakeholders. What may play out at
the moment is to evolve damage control in the leadership of Col. Ali in the
Customs because we perceive that these officers may not be happy if the
scenario is that they cannot aspire to the highest position of the Service.
“ As concerned stakeholders the body language of the
Rtd. Col. Ali Hameed seems not to be encouraging in the leadership of Customs.
Except otherwise stated it is our view that the primary duty of Col. Ali is to
carry out the mandate of Mr. President within the shortest possible time frame
to restructure, reform and put a system in place that will ensure maximum
revenue collection and accounting.”
The statement while commenting on the retirement of
officers in the ranks of DCG’s, ACG’s and Comptroller cadre said there was the
need to exercise restraint to “avoid throwing away the baby with the bath water.”
“It is also important that care and circumspection are
observed to avoid brain drain in the personnel and liquidity of the Service. We
wish to acknowledge the fact that Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali had accepted the fact
that NCS personnel cannot be separated from the greater numbers of Nigerians on
matters of corruption. We consider that a plus for the Customs for the reasons
that the CGC is a man of honor and integrity.”
The association also said that on the part of the officers and men of the
Service, there was the need to exercise caution on matters of loyalty to a
constituted authority which is the roadmap to success in nation building.
“Government at all levels is next to God with powers
of coercion to actualize its objective for the good of the greater numbers.
Therefore care should be taken to avoid the introduction of Georgian reforms in
a corrupt society by the Government.”
The association said that the ongoing reforms and
restructuring should be made transparent to avoid undue speculations of
witch-hunting.
“In the instance wherein it is alleged that the
expected workforce for Comptrollers in the Service may be 75 officers, where
there are over 140 Serving Comptrollers calls for extreme caution. To
restructure the Service it means that half of the Comptrollers will have to go.
“The modalities to disengage the officers must be
transparent otherwise the exercise may attract litigations from the affected.
We must appreciate the fact that Customs officers like other civil servants are
in contract with the Federal Government of Nigeria and therefore there must be
restraint the way they are forcefully retired without reaching the mandatory
date and time of tenureship.
“This is without prejudices to labour law of hire and
fire in private organizations and or as the case may be. We are in a democracy.
Decree 17 of 1984 might have shielded Mr. President in matters of sackings as
happened in the 1984 purge.
We urge public interest and transparency in this
regard.
“The ongoing restructuring and reforms of the NCS is a
necessity for the reasons that so many things have gone wrong in the Service
since 2004. It is in the public domain that external forces have not helped in
the proper management and administration of Customs laws.
“The Nigeria Customs Service as a member of an
international body of World Customs Organisation is expected to be sacrosanct
in its existence. The emergence of a Veterinary Doctor, Permanent Secretary and
Army General respectively in the organization’s leadership in the past may not
have helped the Customs. When the Service was about to recover from external
influences, the “Abuja 88” officers became another intruder in the system.
“Untrained and retired personnel from the Armed Forces
etc were injected into the Service at a very high ranking Cadre of the Service.
They did not undergo tutelage of growing from the ranks to master the
technicalities of being proper revenue collectors of the Customs. This was a
measure of destabilization factor in the Service which they have not fully
recovered
from.
“Till date the 2004 reforms had hit the Service like a
thunder storm when some officers in the rank of Assistant Comptroller staged a
civil service coup to usurp power and promoted themselves three steps above
their colleagues in ranks.

“They seized power, shut down the zonal offices, and
went to headquarters with operational issues rather than policy matters. Under
the doctrine of necessity the service cannot afford to be a judge in its own
matter. 
“Accordingly the mantra of change in Nigeria is the tonic Col. Hameed
Ali needed to right the wrong in the Service over the years. The mandate of Mr.
President is sacrosanct and should be carried out in the most transparent
manner and time limit.”

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