The immediate past spokesman, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Deputy Comptroller, Wale Adeniyi took a hard look at the Customs revenue profile, the biting economic situation and lauds the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, on issues of personnel welfare.
“For welfare, it has not been the optimal level we want, but it is not as bad as we have in other government agencies!” Adeniyi noted, stressing that it might also not be reasonable to talk too much of welfare, at a point the prevailing situation seemingly is taking contrary position.
Most industry watchers are not too comfortable with the current level of personnel welfare of the Nigeria Customs Service. What is your take on this?
One of the areas that the Comptroller General has identified as a priority area, when he came, even before talking of any agenda, is the issue of welfare. He pointedly admitted that what he found as the then welfare for Customs officers is not good enough.
And because he is somebody who has a zero tolerance for corruption on one hand; and on the other hand, because he also strongly believe that for officers to ignore the temptations of corruption, you have to take care of their welfare adequately.
So, it most likely, that the starting point is the salary. He has taken a hard look at the salary and he has said that this can be worked upon, at least to make it commensurate, with what is available with other revenue agencies of government.
He is taking this up. Our immediate and major challenge now, is in the area of funding and this why the CGC is working round the clock, on the issue of revenue.
One thing he actually wanted to do immediately at inception, was to increase the salary. Unfortunately, the funding formula that we still use in the Customs Service has not made that possible.
I have talked about our revenue in 2015; and that we could not even meet our target then. We have since discovered that, but for special efforts of the CGC, especially now, after years of operating on the current seven percent duty course, that it is hardly enough, to pay half salaries.
About six months back, it was so bad. We realized that what we thought was 7 percent was not enough to pay salary. He had to go the extra mile, including exploring relationship with other revenue agents, so that we could pay salaries!
So, from what is on ground now, it doesn’t make any sense to increase salaries, more so, when you have barely enough to pay what you are paying now.
And this is why the CGC has adopted the better and wiser option of broadening consultation, especially towards getting additional funding for the Customs to complement the existing ones.
Already, under the new Custom and Excise Management Act, we proposed a new fundings to take care of some of this unexpected rise and fall in revenue. We are also looking at one or two other additional funding areas. It is comprehensive and should be able to maintain the Service. We are already making some progress in that.