The Customs Comptroller-General, Retired Col Hameed Ali declared the war against smuggling a very costly venture on Thursday, highlighting that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) actually loses no fewer than 200 personnel on it, yearly.
Ali who disclosed this at a meeting organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with the Service Chiefs and heads of paramilitary organizations has however left industry watchers numb, with a few shockingly wondered why the Service kept the high death-rate to itself, even as some simply described it as sheer exaggeration.
Some of the industry stakeholders wondered why the retired Col. had abandoned the lofty idea of an aircraft assisted, anti-smuggling fight against the illicit traders, even as some particularly noted that the NCS under Ali had relied more at pursuing water operating smugglers with wooden canoes, while specially acquired sophisticated vessels, Customs Pride & Co, rot away in Marina Lagos, because the Service failed to train its personnel, to man.
Other participants at the meeting were stakeholders from the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) industries.
Represented by Mr. Abdullahi Babani, an Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Ali said smuggling was the greatest challenge facing the service and all hands must be on deck to defeat it.
He said NCS was disturbed by the high level of smuggling in the country and it was working tirelessly to reduce it to the barest minimum.
Ali urged the Federal Government to work to improve its fiscal and monetary policies to help check the level of smuggling, especially the textile materials.
“The government needs to get its fiscal and monetary policies right; the cost of business is high, there is need for the government to provide roads, security and power for our local industries to thrive.
“When these are made available and easier, their products will be cheap and able to compete with the foreign ones because this is one of the reasons why smuggling thrives.
“Frankly, to address smuggling, the local industries must set the right prices and quality to have desired patronage.
“The market is there, our local textile industries must be ready to compete and this is Nigerian project. We shall work with CBN and other relevant stakeholders in achieving it.
“Our core mandate is to suppress smuggling and we are committed to achieving that. Therefore all stakeholders must support us to reduce it,” he said.
The customs boss urged stakeholders in the CTG industries to help the service in the area of intelligence by providing useful information that would assist in identifying the smugglers with a view to punishing them accordingly.