There is unease in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over an order by its Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali directing all officers and men of the NCS to make full disclosures of their assets.
Ali said the directive was a new measure put in place to install transparency and compliance with the rule of law in the organisation.
Some Customs officers described Ali’s order as “absurd” an attempt to witch hunt them.
An officer at Tin Can Island Port Command, who spoke with The Economy via telephone over the weekend, said the directive will create a schism in the NCS. “I can tell you that there is a lot of grumbling already in the Service. People are tensed up. It is clear that anti-graft agencies will be unleashed on officers who declare property or other assets considered to be beyond their legitimate earnings but the truth is that those officers might have invested their funds or engaged in other form of legitimate enterprise. But who will listen and reason with them on that score?” the officer, who did not want his identity disclosed, said.
He also said that while the order is not entirely new, “I suspect that it’ll go beyond mere filling and submitting assets declaration form this time”.
A Comptroller of Customs serving at the NCS headquarters, who also spoke in anonymity via the telephone said, “We saw this coming”.
He, however, expressed doubt over the level of compliance.“It won’t work,” he simply stated.
The directive on assets declaration was contained in a circular signed by the Comptroller-General and addressed to all Deputy Comptrollers-General, Zonal Coordinators and Customs Area Controllers, which mandates all officers to comply within 14 days.
According to the circular, which was published on the customs’ website by its Public Relations Officer, Wale Adeniyi, the directive on assets declaration “is in compliance with the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act Cap B1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Though the Act provides for assets declaration by all bank employees, it also empowers the President to extend its application to other categories of persons.”
The circular added that Section 12 (1) of the Act states, “The provision of this Act shall apply to the Comptroller-General, Deputy Comptroller-General, Assistant Comptroller-General, Chief Collector, Principal Collector and other officers, staff or employee of the Nigeria Customs Service as they apply to a Chief Executive or an employee of a bank.”
The Comptroller-General, who observed that many officers of the customs had not complied with the provisions of the Act over the years, stated that the 14-day ultimatum for compliance would be strictly enforced.
The Customs Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali has threatened to prosecute and jail corrupt Customs officials.
By Pita Ochai