By Christiana Ekpa
The comptroller general of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Ahmadu Ali has alleged that members of the border communities provide a shield for arms smugglers, thereby making it difficult to curb the proliferation of light weapons into the country.
The Customs CG disclosed this before the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise for the agency’s 2020/2021 budget defense,
He said said the Customs was yet to contain the smuggling of arms into the country.
“Our biggest problem with stopping arms smuggling, is that border communities gang up against us, kill us and burn our vehicles. They gang up to fight us because they think the bandits(who smuggle arms), are more important to their lives than us. We need other agencies and communities to help us.
Until that is done, customs is willing to do what it can, to stop that”, he said.
There is no nation that has been able to stop arms smuggling. I understand there are complaints that how can Customs not stop this. But we cannot effectively Police borders. We can only make efforts through the third tier, to curtail smuggling”.
He said to curtail the menace, “other agencies and people in the border communities, must help us(customs)”.
The Customs boss was responding to questions from members of the committee on the subject.
Besides, he also dropped the bombshell, that the service, had not recruited personnel, since 2004.
“As for recruitment, I want to say that It is only the President that can decide. It is not within our purview to do that. If we take the issue to the President, he will ask if we have enough resources to pay the people we are recruiting. We must convince him that we have the funds to pay them.
“And the committee must know that, Customs has had 17 years without recruitment”, he said.
He also told the Committee, that of the N13billion budget made available to the service, from 2018-2020, only about N17 million, was utilized, provoking an outrage from the lawmakers.
The CG, also denied that the agency was involved in budget manipulations, as he insisted that some budget provisions regarding purchases of vehicles and other capital projects, were rolled over to other years, because the projects attached to them, were either delayed or not approved by the Bureau for Public Procurement, BPP.
“ let me say here, that 2020 is a year that came and everybody knows what happened. There was a time of total lockdown. The lockdown was almost half of that year, therefore, the processing of budget, had to go through due process of advertising, BPP and other tenders board, management, ministerial and FEC(Federal Executive Council). The performance was minimal, because of the circumstances of the year. Not much was done in 2020, that was why we rolled over to 2021.