The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), retired Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, has said the only way Nigeria can protect its borders effectively is through huge investment in technology.
Ali also noted that customs can only succeed in its anti-smuggling activities across the borders and ports by deploying technology away from person- to-person contacts.
Ali, who stated this on Thursday at a State House Ministerial media briefing in Abuja, also called for a stop to the importation of rice by Nigeria.
He said: “The only way we can protect our borders is huge investment in technology. The best way you can modify and make sure that customs succeed is to provide more technology.
“You can not reverse technology. Once you remove that contact of person to person and use electronic, it makes the work easier and more efficient.
“By next month, we will launch our mobile scanners which will be used to speed up our clearance and also increase our revenue.
“The problem with most importers in Nigeria is that they are dishonest. Most of them lie about what they have in their containers. They mix different goods in a container and declare just one.
“With this scanner, we don’t have to go through the hassles of checking all those large containers, we just scan and you pay for everything you imported.”
On Nigeria’s porous borders, the controller-general of customs disclosed that customs was working closely with neighboring countries to ensure that they create a synergy to protect themselves from the illicit happenings.
“The fight against smuggling which is the toughest part of our mandate is becoming tougher by the day. Smugglers are becoming more sophisticated. They are using not only AK 47 but submarine guns; so we have modified our own operations.
“Today we have a conglomeration of the army, airforce and all other security agencies that have come together under one roof to ensure the security of our borders. Their job is to ensure that jointly our borders are protected. We have about four sectors from Cross River up to Yobe.
“We are not covering Borno and that of Adamawa because it is still an operational area, and the military has told us to keep off that they are handling those areas.
“Secondly, we are trying to increase our arsenal with regard to capability to be able to fight smuggling and ensure we monitor our borders. The modernisation process that we have, has in it an inbuilt system for border monitoring which will be linked to the IT system.
“We intend to work with the Airforce to get as much aircraft as possible. We talking with the Army to train our officers to learn to para-drop so that we won’t pick only electronic activities along the borders.
“We should also be able to drop our officers at every point to able to intercept the actions of smugglers. So, we are working assiduously to ensure that we protect our borders,”Ali said.
On importation of rice, he noted that the biggest seizure the NCS has been carrying out is rice.
“We thank Mr. President for agreeing with customs to ban the importation of rice, and that one decision has sustained this country.
“If we had not embarked on self-sufficiency in terms of the production of rice in Nigeria during the COVID-19 period we would have had the worst crisis because then there were no ships coming from India or Asia to bring rice. I don’t know what we would have been eating.
“We thank God that Mr. President quickly realised that and came up with the self-sufficiency policy, and our farmers took up that as a challenge and the availability of rice produced locally is what has sustained this country up till today,” the customs boss explained.
On the issue of revenue, Ali disclosed that the government gave Customs a revenue target of N3.019 trillion for 2022, adding that Customs was working toward meeting the target by end of December.
“We were given a target of N3.019 trillion for the year 2022, and we have so far collected N2.143 trillion; we are working toward making sure that we get to the target.
“Our challenge is that some of the key areas that were factored into the N3.019 trillion was the collection of the telecommunications tax which up till now we have not started.
“Also the collection of the carbonated drinks tax which we started in July. We did not start at the time we were supposed to start.
“So we are working to ensure that by the end of December we can report to Nigerians that we have been able to make the N3.019 trillion target,” Ali said.