The seeming face off between the Nigerian Senate and Customs helmsman Hameed Ali is taking a huge toll on anti smuggling drive and revenue generation efforts of the Nigerian Customs Service. And this may further hamper the ease of doing business at the ports. This has led to deliberate refusal of the Senate to appropriate capital funds to the agency which is the reason there is a shortfall in anti smuggling patrol vehicles and functional scanners at the nation’s major entry points among other essential needs of the agency.
The Nigerian Customs Service is the third highest revenue earner for the country. Hameed Ali and the Senate have been engrossed in an ego war for almost two years now on account of the Customs Chief refusing to appear in the red chambers donned in Customs uniform.
Investigation by Shipping World magazine revealed that whereas there are budgetary provisions for capital projects in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, not a dime was released to the agency in three years making it rely only on its recurrent vote. For instance ,about N8 Billion approved for the agency since 2015 for the completion of its high profile head office in Maitama, Abuja is among projects caught up in this web.
A top official of the Service who spoke to Shipping World on condition of anonymity said,’ All we have done in the past three years is pay salaries, fuel official cars, buy stationery. Even the N8 Billion approved for the completion of our head office complex by the 7th Senate is trapped at the Finance Ministry’, he said.
“To make matters worse , the Presidency intervened to stave off a crises by approving an intervention fund of N1.4 billion to purchase 50 Hilux patrol vehicles. But the Service is supposed to purchase these vehicles from the open market but dealers are allegedly afraid to come forward to supply for fear that most of them do not have genuine Customs papers and may end up being seized, an official told Shipping World.
“What we are doing now is to arrange to place orders from manufacturers abroad,” said the official. It would be recalled that the face off between the Senate and Hameed Ali came to the fore when the former Kaduna State Military Administrator refused to appear before the Senate in Customs uniform. Ali is also accused of bypassing his supervising Minister and the Customs Board and dealing directly with President Muhammadu Buhari thereby ignoring the oversight role of the Ministry.