Monday, 14 September 2015

Corruption: Buhari demands Customs officers’ files

Buhari’s directive: Ali demands Customs officers’ files

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the new Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hamid Ali (retd.) to rid the service of corrupt officers.

The PUNCH learnt on Sunday that as part of measures to carry out Buhari’s directive, the CG of Customs had demanded files of top officers of the service.

Investigations showed that the President specifically posted Ali to the NCS because of its poor image on corruption.

It was gathered that Buhari took his anti-graft war to the Customs also because of the dwindling revenues from oil which is the country’s major source of income.

A top officer of the Presidency, who confided in The PUNCH, noted that Customs ranked among the most corrupt government agencies in the country.

A survey by the CLEEN Foundation in collaboration with the McArthur Foundation had in 2013 ranked Customs among corrupt Federal Government agencies.

Other corrupt agencies mentioned in the survey included the Police, Nigeria Immigration Service and the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.

It was also gathered that Buhari reasoned that for the government to meet its obligations amid short-fall in its revenues, there should be transparency in revenue generating agencies.

The Presidency official, who spoke with The PUNCH, identified the fact that the Federal Government had not met its revenue target in 2015.

For instance, a look at the 2015 budget shows that the government is targeting gross federally collectible revenue of N9.78tn to be shared by the three tiers of government.

The figure, when spread over a 12-month period when the amount is to be generated, translates into monthly revenue of N815bn or N2.44tn per quarter.

But figures obtained from the Federal Ministry of Finance showed that between January and May this year, the country was only able to generate the sum of N1.74tn as gross revenue.

When the actual N1.74tn revenue is compared to the budgeted target of N4.07tn that should have been earned within the five-month period, it translates into a revenue shortfall of 42.5 per cent or N2.3tn.

A breakdown of the actual revenue revealed that the sum of N416.04bn was generated in January, N401.46bn in February while the months of March, April and May had N315.04bn, N282.06bn and N324.96bn respectively.

It was gathered that a mass purge was imminent in the Customs as part of efforts to carry out the President’s directive.

Investigations showed that fear had gripped men and officers of the service, who had been feeding fat on government revenues.

The PUNCH reliably gathered on Friday that the new Comptroller-General had started scrutinising files of top officers of the service and petitions written against some employees.

Investigations revealed that any Customs officers with queries pertaining to proven cases of corruption in his file would be shown the way out.

It was learnt that Ali, in implementing this mandate, was determined to shore up revenues accruable to the Federal Government.

Investigations showed that the new Customs boss would also work on petitions written by members of the public against some officers.

Some of the petitions, it was gathered, dealt with illegal sales of seized goods by officers of the service.

A top officer of the NCS, who confided in The PUNCH, said that there had been complaints about illegal sales of contrabands.

He said that money accruable from sales of goods went to private pockets, adding that they were not gazetted before being sold.

“There are petitions bordering on corruption. The new helmsman has asked for files of all officers. Reorganisation is inevitable in the NIS and those who are corrupt would be shown the way out,” he stated.

It was also gathered that the new comptroller general would look into violations of rules and regulations on clearance of goods as well as false declarations and misapplication of tariffs.

When contacted, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said that crux of Buhari’s anti-corruption war was that anybody that corruptly enriched himself would be prosecuted.

When asked to explain Buhari’s directives to Ali on corruption, he said, “I will answer your question with a question: should we allow a corrupt officer to continue staying in the system?

“The crux of President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign is that anyone found to have corruptly enriched himself should be dealt with according to the rules, and the individual must face prosecution. The campaign is only meaningful if officials indicted for corruption are made to face trial.”