Customs Comptroller-General, Hammed Ali has dismissed speculations that he intends to embark on mass sack of officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Speaking during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos recently, Ali said that his mandate to reform and restructure the NCS does not mean doing away with personnel but to ensure that officers adhere strictly to the law.
“We are not threatening officers but stressing the position of the law. My job is not to sack but to make the system work. Some may decide to leave because we are going to tighten the noose because the right thing must be done.
“Some may feel that the kitchen is too hot for them and they will opt out and we will be glad to say go and those that will remain must be ready to work in accordance with the parameters set by our own law.
“So the choice of whether to stay or go is for the person to decide. I have no intention to sack officers,” he said.
On the lifting of the ban placed on importation of rice through the land borders, he explained that NCS placed the restriction because of increased rate of smuggling through the land borders but when it felt the restriction was no longer necessary, it decided to lift it so that appropriate duties will be collected to increase government revenue generation.
“What we did was to lift the restriction we imposed ourselves. It was not a policy by government. It was Customs that decided to impose the restriction and now we decided to lift it so that importers will pay legitimate duty and revenue generated for government,” he said.
Speaking on why he does not wear Customs uniform, Ali said he did not need to wear Customs uniform to perform his job, noting that what was paramount to him was to deliver on the mandate handed down by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Customs boss also said that he will recover N20 billion in unpaid tariffs from some rice importers.
“All lawful means will be explored to recover the money. No rice importer will go away with our money. We will explore all right channels to get it. We will even go to the extent of finding out how we got to this level. There will be no wishy-washy approach to it,” he said.
The NCS had in July sealed the warehouses and business premises of four major rice importing firms over N23.6 billion unpaid rice duties and levies. The importers were the beneficiaries of the 2014 rice import quota policy, which specified a preferential duty rate of 10 per cent and levy of 20 per cent for their imports.
The companies, Olam, Stallion, Ebony Agro and Conti Agro, were said to have imported in excess of 750,253.03 tonnes of rice, for which the NCS expected the payment of extant duty and levies.
By Pita Ochai