Barely 24 hours after the announcement by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali on Tuesday ordering the immediate dismantling of checkpoints, checks in commands around Lagos show sad moods and fears of meeting revenue targets.
Most of the senior officers who spoke on condition of anonymity to Business Hilights decried the order saying, most of the revenue that jerk up their monthly earnings come from seizures.
According to them, the CG is aware of this development and still went ahead to ban road checkpoints.
They argued that even if checkpoints must be removed, not in states like Lagos and Ogun which are key entry points for smugglers who escape duties using bush parts and creeks to ferry in contraband and duty payable goods.
Checks along the notorious Lagos-Badagry Expressway on Wednesday showed partial compliance as certain scenarios that suggest Customs checkpoints were sighted around Iyanoba, Alaba-Arago, Vespa, and two other notorious bus stops on the road that are known for rice smugglers.
Efforts to identity the identities of the offers and inscriptions on their vehicles which were smartly parked on a bushy cover failed during the tour of the road.
Build up to the ban cannot be unconnected to sustained complains of harassment and intimidation on motorists by officials of the NCS who mount various checkpoints on the nation’s highways.
Apart from ordinarily motorists and road users, importers and agents have also complained that they are stopped on the highways and their cargoes subjected to a fresh round of checks after such consignments have been legitimately cleared from the port. After being subjected to fresh checks on the highways, they are made to part with millions of Naira, depending on the value of their goods, or risk forfeiture.
Business Hilights recalls that the ban on Customs checkpoints followed a directive contained in a circular number 10/2017, dated 25th July 2017 and titled “Removal of all illegal check-points across the country”.
The circular, which was in compliance with the directive of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), was signed behalf of the Customs Comptroller-General by Acting Deputy Comptroller-General, Dangaladima, A.A.
Part of the circular, read in parts “The 40 kilometres radius applies only to the borders and consequently there should be no check points within the port areas”.
“To further clarify these issues, it should be reminded strongly that only two check points situated at Agbara and Gbaji along Lagos-Badagry-Seme road are statutorily approved, for instance.
“Henceforth, Zonal Coordinators, Comptrollers FOUs, CACs, CIU and other Units will be jointly held responsible for flouting the directive.
“Ensure widest circulation for strict compliance, please.”
It would be recalled that in a letter dated July 18, 2017, PEBEC had directed the Customs Comptroller-General Hameed Ali to issue directive to his officers “to ensure removal of all illegal check points across Nigeria”.The lead directive from PEBEC’s notice to Ali, signed by PEBEC Secretary, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, reads in part: “Further to the mandate of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) on the scoping of reform initiatives to be implemented under the new reform area, Trading within Nigeria, the Technical Committee of the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), and Key Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), including the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), have commenced weekly engagements for the implementation this mandate”.
“From the ongoing scoping exercise of the Technical Committee, the following reform initiatives have been identified and agreed as short term reforms to be implemented by the NCS before Friday August 11, 2017: