Your speech lacked direction and character, CAFFA tells Hameed Ali


Being a full text of the press release issued by the Concerned Accredited Freight Forwarding Associations (CAFFA) on the ongoing familiarization visit of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) to Customs formations in Lagos. See details below;

Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali of the Nigeria Customs Service familiarization tour may have been received with mixed feelings

We want to believe that his presence in the Western Zone of the seaports, airports, and border stations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is merely a familiarization tour rather than a working visitation.  It is the only way CAFFA can console itself over his speech which did not give direction and character on the best way of tackling corruption in the Customs ports and border stations.

The need for compliance and application of rule 46 and 47 of cema may be mere rhetoric wherein revenue is a key factor in the presidential mandate of reform, restructure and revenue enhancement mantra.   The concept of body language, threats and reading of riot act are motionless approach to tackling corruption in our international gateways, we can only but advise the Customs management to evolve the concept and practices of public/private partnership in real terms to drive the mantra of change and anti corruption war in the customs ports and border stations. We may not be able to fight corruption and enhance port efficiency in a situation where the salaries of some of the Customs officers are less than that of a motor driver in NPA or NIMASA and or NNPC etc.

Many of the graduate officers of 1982 squad are still wearing a Chief Superintendent Rank whereas some of their mates have risen to Dcg ranks.  The hydro scanners and the risk management tools are not reliably being deployed whereas the concept and practices of paperless shipping are being jettisoned or neglected.   Documentary checks and processes rather than being simplified are being elongated and there is no reward or bonuses for excellent performance.

The terminal operators and shipping companies are allegedly lawless in the Customs ports thus obstructing the lawful duty of officers of the service.  The licensing regulation of the Customs using corporate bodies as licensees is the highest threat to Government revenue wherein foreigners and serving Customs officers may be the majority owners of such licences.  While CAffA shall continue to cooperate and support the Customs, it is our advice that a public hearing be convened to discuss the best way Customs ports and border stations business concerns can become more productive and competitive.

The real news and development is that Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali has accepted in his speech that he is one of the Customs officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  We wish to state that whatever affects the Customs has effect on us and therefore the mandate of reform and restructure has our concern as critical stakeholders.  The point herein canvassed is that whatever Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali as the Comptroller General of Customs is saying has been said in the past by Alhaji Inde Abdullahi Dikko, the immediate past CGC.

In several occasions Alhaji Dikko had told us that the multiple alerts would stop and as he leaves Lagos for Abuja the alerts will double.  We have been told Hydro Scanners will start to work and it is a rhetoric as it were.  We have been told that officers who release uncustomsed containers shall be made to pay the short collection, it is a story for the marines.

We have been told that officers who have been in a command or recycle themselves in a zone shall be transferred, it is an old story.  We have been told that officers who ran and manage licenses issued by Customs shall be dealt with, it is all false alert.  We have been asking for a harmonized public value for duty assessment, it is still in secrecy.  We have been told that checkpoints at the state levels in our city high ways should stop but it is to your tents oh Israel.  We have been told that Customs examination is one stop-shop, it is now ten times or more as any unit of the officers may decide.

We have told Customs to jettison licensing of corporate bodies which have become the highest threat to Government revenue, it is to a deaf and dumb because it is considered as a shield to officers and personal benefits.  We have told Customs to cooporate and support CRFFN to usher in best practices and professionalism in the business of Customs formalities and freight forwarding Act, they refused but rather insisted on preaching the old and obsolete law of CEMA.  The new song is merger or consolidation of licenses which does not resolve anything to the contrary.  A corporate body cannot be a professional and we expect Customs to know.  We have requested that Customs value for duty assessment should be interactive but nobody is listening and as it were goods are being over valued.

What we are saying is that we are tired of living our lives through bribery activities in our profession.  What we are saying in effect is that the CGC Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali should remove all obstacles of human element hindrances and simplify clearing processes through Customs control.  There should be transparency in the management and administration of Customs laws in relation to trade and commerce in the Customs ports and border areas.  There should be uniformity in the rule of engagement at the seaports, airports and border locations to ensure equity, fairness, justice and healthy competition.

We have carefully analyzed his mandate as handed to him by Mr. President.  It is our view that his mandate should have also included facilitation of legitimate trade but however it is implied in his speech seeking for compliance and show of transparency in our conduct and businesses.

We are looking forward to sitting down jointly and marshaling out strategic plans to tackle corruption in the Customs ports.    We are sure that he is very much aware that ignorance is not an excuse in law and as the Comptroller General of Customs, he should be held accountable for lack of proper supervision if cases of corruption continue further in our entry points.

We want the CGC to understand that it takes a thief to catch a thief, the solution and way forward to his mandate is to bring the Customs and CRFFN to work together and develop a realistic and sustainable strategy to meet up with Presidential mandate.  A synergy should be developed with the critical stakeholders and in particular, National Association of Government Approved Frieght Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), National Association of Freight Forwarders & Consolidators (NAFFAC), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) to ensure sustainable approach to tackling corruption and ensuring compliance with import/export regulations.

We do hope that the CGC would ask for state pardon from Mr. President for all the Customs officers, freight forwarders, licensed customs agents, importers and exporters etc who may have given bribe or taken bribe before his assumption of office.  The mantra of giver and the taker is an open law to the public.  If this did not happen it is our view that he may be carrying the Presidential mandate on a shifting sand because he may be generally dealing with corrupt people who have erred against the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the past and present.  As it stands now it is only the Comptroller General of Customs that can be absolved from corruption in our ports functions and operations and we pray that he will remain so throughout his mandate of reform, restructure and revenue collection.  He needs our prayers and support just like the Pope asked the Christians in America during his State visit to pray for him.  We shall be advising Mr. President and indeed Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali to study the State of Georgia experience of institutional reforms of the 90’s as a reference point. 

We must also continue to pray for our President in his difficult but achievable task of restoring the past glory of our potentially great nation.
Fwdr. Eugene Nweke (Dr.)                             Fwdr. Festus Ejiofor (HRH)

National President, NAGAFf                        National President, NCMDLCA
Fwdr. C. A. T. AgubamaH (Chief)                  Fwdr. Frank UkoR (Dr).

National President, NAFFAC                         National President, AREFFN


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