Nigeria Customs is without a doubt one of the most corrupt agencies of government and in its dealings with the public one of the most notorious. It is one organization that Nigerian traders and vehicle owners loathe with passion. People pray not to meet them on the roadside or to have them visit their shops or warehouses. They are simply nasty with their crooked operational methods.
In all civilized countries of the world Customs men and women check goods and products entering their territories at the borders and charge appropriate tariffs or out rightly prohibit contraband goods from entering their land.
In Nigeria, the Customs officials collude with traffickers to smuggle in prohibited goods, and sometimes charge minimum tariffs while encouraging importers to pay the balance to their private pockets. In some cases, the officials take huge bribes and simply allow the contraband goods to walk in freely. Government is said to lose huge sums of revenue weekly and monthly due to the greed of pot-bellied Customs officials.
After allowing smugglers to bring goods into the country, the same Customs officials now constitute themselves to nuisances chasing after traders in their stores and shops. It is usually a very sorry spectacle watching these rude Customs men rough-handling innocent traders in the market or in their roadside stores.
The most irritating part of the Customs menace is when they accost motorists and crudely demand for Customs papers of a vehicle that has been in the country for 10 years! You brought a vehicle into the country about 10 years ago and driving up country from Lagos some wild looking Customs men jump into the middle of the road on the Highway, trotting guns and scream at you to produce Customs papers!
Visitors and guests to the country who are unfamiliar with these strange gestures always wonder if Nigeria belonged in the Stone Age.
The Government at the centre must pay attention to this menace and stop it. Customs are trained to prevent prohibited goods from entering the country through our borders. If as a result of their criminal negligence or corruption they are unable to faithfully discharge their prescribed responsibilities they should be stopped from rushing to market places to harass and rough-handle innocent traders.
The mad show they put up at market places is most uncivilized and embarrassing. They have also been accused of confiscating people’s goods only for such goods to resurface in the living room of Customs officials!
There are too many checkpoints on Nigeria roads which have made motoring or travelling on our roads very unfriendly, unpalatable and uncomfortable. Government must as a matter of urgency look into this ugly trend and put an end to it. How can a country say she wants to diversify her revenue generating base through tourism and yet allow hungry ‘toll’ men to terrorize travellers unceasingly?
Which visitor would travel from Lagos to Owerri of from Port Harcourt to Osogbo with hundreds of policemen, customs men, road safety corps, soldiers, and all sorts of uniformed men extorting money along the way?
The most disappointing part of the saga is the fact that every Inspector General of Police goes on air to condemn police checkpoints. Who then is in charge? Although we are yet to hear the Customs Chief disclaim his boys’ atrocities, it is believed that the story would be the same. And yet his boys are let loose on the Highways and in the markets.
I hope the Public Relations department of Nigeria Customs is reading this article. If he is not, any Customs official reading this piece should have the courage to show it to his boss and the Comptroller General. Let Mr. Comptroller General know that Nigeria Customs have no good reputation in town!
The Comptroller General should dismantle all their road side sheds and stop asking for the papers you should have collected and inspected at the ports of entry into the country. There are no ports along Ore-Benin road. There are no ports along Ijebu-Ode-Ibadan road. And there are no ports at Oyingbo market!
Let me sound a note of warning. Nigerians are too angry and too hungry to tolerate any further worsening of their plight. Nigerians may snap at any time. I hope and pray that someday Customs men will not be lynched in the market place!
When people who are supposed to uphold the law and safeguard the people are the very ones taking the laws into their hands and acting with impunity, they are invariably courting trouble.
Any vehicle that has succeeded in leaving the ports should be left severely alone. And any bag of rice or bale of lace that has been allowed to cross the border should not be pursued to the shops. The snag here is that most the shops being harassed may not belong to the persons who brought the goods in the shops into the country.
Mr. Customs man, your job begins and stops at the border!!!!