…Seeks declaration of state of emergency at seaports, border stations
A frontline maritime journalist, Mr. Asu Beks has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately appoint a serving career officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to head the Service as the current Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) lacks the cognate professional experience and competence to lead the Service.
Asu Beks who made this call at a press briefing in Lagos on Wednesday said that only this would surely restore the lost glory of the service and instill accountability, professionalism and boost morale of officers and men of the Nigerian Customs Service.
He stated that it was wrong as a nation to appoint a politician rather than a career officer to run such a highly technical and professional body as the Nigeria Customs Service adding that more than three years on, Hameed Ali has performed abysmally.
Beks who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) stated that “He has failed to promote professionalism and discipline in the service leaving most officers to seek self-help, officers sent on official assignments or those on transfer are denied their allowances and other entitlements. Corruption has reached an unprecedented height as promotion and juicy postings are usually on recommendations from prominent emirs”.
He continued, “Most of the government warehouses in major customs commands are unable to cope with the influx of impounded items .Goods, mostly cars running into billions of naira have been allowed to rot away. This is due to Hameed Ali’s refusal to comply with extant laws on the disposal of such goods. He had ignored the role of government appointed auctioneers as well as the powers of Customs Area Controllers which vested on them the powers of disposal as prescribed in the Customs and Excise Management”.
Speaking further on the state of insecurity at the Nigeria’s ports and border stations, Beks who is the Managing Director of the Maritime Media Limited recalled that over 12 years ago when the debate on the pros and cons on the planned concession of port terminals was being muted, labour and the maritime media then called for caution which he said was predicated on fears that the incoming terminal operators may compromise on the national security.
“Today, those fears have been largely confirmed as arms and ammunition and the influx of illicit drugs into the country have climbed to an unprecedented level. Last year alone, no fewer than 2,700 pump action rifles were impounded by customs authorities in Lagos alone .Interestingly most of the imports came from Turkey and yet no diplomatic efforts were made to dissuade the Turkish government from engaging in such unwholesome practices.
“In the last four weeks, no fewer than 59 containers laden with tramadol and other forms of hard drugs were seized at Apapa, Tin Can and Owerri. Even though we commend the officers who made these landmark seizures, we are nonetheless worried at the quantum of the same imports which may have missed the eagle eyes of customs officials. We are also worried that the identities of these importers are still shrouded in Secrecy.
“My painstaking investigations have revealed that customs officials are working under the most severe and harsh conditions with barely enough tools with little or no motivation from the customs authorities in Abuja. With no scanners at the ports and border posts coupled with obsolete guns, it would seem that smugglers and other forms of economic saboteurs are having a field day. Our borders have become even more porous than ever before in our recent history as arms and ammunition and illegal immigrants move freely across borders unchallenged. On several occasions, customs officers at border posts have been gunned down by dare devil smugglers and armed insurgents with little or no resistance. Other security agents have done little or nothing to complement customs and Immigration officials”, he observed.
He therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency at the Nigerian ports and border posts to draw attention of all relevant agencies on the need to stop this army of invaders while urging relevant authorities to subject all imports to 100 per cent physical examination at the ports and all entry points including airports and land borders.
“This is a very difficult pill we have to swallow as a people but no serious country would sit and watch as armed cross border bandits and enemies of a free world attempt to challenge our sovereignty as a nation”, he said.
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