Smugglers provide employment for the border communities. Hence, they cooperate with the smugglers… When you go to these communities… there is no government presence, no water, some have to cross to other countries to get medical attention…’
The Comptroller- General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd), yesterday, told the Senate that his agency could not stop smuggling in the country due to bad governance, which made smugglers collude with members of border communities. Ali stated this in Abuja at the opening session of a three-day Senate public hearing on the 2022-2024 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The public hearing was organised by the Senate Joint Committees on Finance, National Planning, Foreign and Local Debts, Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions and Petroleum Resources with revenue generation and management agencies of government in attendance. He said that, as a result of lack of government presence at the border communities, the smugglers provided employment opportunities to the communities around the borders, which made them to collude with smugglers and in the process frustrate efforts of the Nigerian Customs Service in tackling the menace.
Ali revealed that NCS in 2020 generated N1.5trillion while N1.02 trillion had been generated so far in the last six months of 2021. Director General, Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha, in her presentation, said that there was an increasingly higher level of new borrowing provided in the 2022-2024 MTEF. She said the renewed higher level of borrowing had a direct impact on debt service, saying that there was an urgent need for a significant boost in revenue to avoid unsustainability of public debt.
Earlier, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Sen. Solomon Adeola (APC Lagos), said that the public hearing was designed to get the true situation of revenue of the country as presented in the 2022- 20224 MTEF and FSP document before presentation of budget estimates by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly
Smugglers provide employment for the border communities; hence they cooperate with the smugglers rather than the government,” he said. He revealed that Nigeria had lost revenues due to under- payment at the nation’s ports, stressing that absence of scanners had also made the Customs Service to resort to hundred percent inspection, which he said, was cumbersome and timeconsuming.
He said: “To stop smuggling completely, we need technology, manpower and cooperation of citizens living in the border communities. When you go to these border communities, you find out that in most cases, there is no presence of government, no water. Some have to cross to other countries to be able to get medical attention. When you approach them for cooperation they decline to cooperate.” He, however, said that the NCS had put in place structures to curtail issues of smuggling, saying that the NCS was employing improved manpower and leveraging on technology via its Electronic Customs’ structures.
He noted that the NCS was on the verge of deploying three scanners at the various ports in the country, for proper and speedy examination of containers into the country, saying that this would ensure 100 per cent and speedy examination of containers and reduce incidence of under payment of duties and false declaration of goods.