Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd.), Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Thursday, revealed that the service lacked the capacity to effectively man the nation’s borders.
The CGC, who disclosed this in Abuja while giving a report of the service’s budget performance of 2020 and presenting year 2021 budget before the House of Representatives Committee on Customs, lamented that the nation’s borders were too long and porous.
Given this kind of large borders and poor staff strength of the service, Ali, who hinted that personnel strength was a little above 15,000, said even if about 8000 were to be deployed to man the borders, it would still be very insufficient.
He also lamented that there was abject poverty in border towns, which often lacked government presence.
“The borders of Nigeria are long and porous. There is no way we can be everywhere to block these borders.
“Most of the communities where smuggling takes effect do not have a feel of government,” the CGC stated.
He said on the part of the service, they had drilled boreholes, built health centres there, which were duties of other agencies.
“Communities gang up in most places, burn our vehicles, kill our personnel, because they do not owe allegiance to us but smugglers, because smugglers pay them,” Ali regretted.
He said that he felt the pains of these border communities as they travelled to distant towns to seek medical care and education because the government did not care about them.
“Customs alone cannot do this. There is a gap in terms of officers. Customs stayed for seventeen years without recruitment,” he lamented.
The CGC said while 3200 persons were lined up for recruitment into the service, presently only 800 would be employed, just to pick junior officers.
He said presently, the service was short of senior officers at strategic cadres, stressing that very soon, there would be no more senior officers in Customs and the juniors of today may not rise to a certain senior level before retiring if nothing was done urgently to arrest this lacuna.
“These are gaps that were created and it is affecting the service. We are short of senior officers,” the CGC lamented.
Responding to allegations by some lawmakers that the service was docile in tracking arms smuggling into the country, he said the service had been blocking arms smuggling, adding that if they were not doing this, the problem would have been worse.
He disclosed that Customs had done exceptionally well in the 2020 budget in the performance of targets given to it by government.
Responding, Hon. Leke Abejide, Acting Chairman of the Committee, commended the performance of the service, saying that it had been meeting targets and that the House in plenary had commended the service.