Customs may bar retired officers from cargo clearing business
BY FRANCIS EZEM
There are strong indications that the Nigeria Customs Service may wield the big stick against some retired officers and men of the service, who engage in direct clearing of cargo at the various nation’s seaports and borders, which it feels is unethical.
This is sequel to complaints and petitions to the service especially by indigenous licensed clearing agents and freight forwarders, who alleged that foreigners and retired officers and men of the service have taken over their jobs, which has led to the closure of many of such clearing firms with the attendant loss of job opportunities for teeming Nigerian youths.
It was however gathered that the office of the Comptroller General of the service is awash with series of letters of complaints and petitions, which alleged that some retired officers and men of the service engage in cargo clearing business, taking undue advantage of the cordial relationships that exist between them and their former colleagues in the service.
Investigations also showed that the service is currently considering the most appropriate actions to be adopted in weeding these retired officers and men out of the business, as it is weighing several options available to it that would achieve the best result.
One of such options might be to bar the affected retired officers and men from accessing the Customs Processing Centre CPC, which houses the Automated System for Customs Data ASCUDA++, which is the Information Communication Technology ICT hub spread across all the Customs commands for the clearing of cargo.
Another option, according to a source at a Customs command is to block any clearing license used by retired officers and men not minding whether such licenses belong to them directly or sub-let for a fee by a licensed clearing agent, which will serve as a deterrent to others that may want to borrow from friends or sub-let for a fee to the officers.
Stakeholders have argued that allowing retired officers and men, who know the nitty-gritty of cargo valuation and other clearing processes might compromise the system, especially given the rapport that exists between the retired officers and men with their serving colleagues, which might lead to massive loss of government revenue.
Meanwhile, National Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah, who reacted to the development in a telephone chat, admitted that the office of the CG has been inundated with complaints and petitions by clearing agents alleging that retired officers and men have taken over their jobs.
He noted that the service has yet to take any decision on most appropriate way to address the issue, saying that the management of the service was not comfortable with such complaints and petitions and would address them with time.
But some stakeholders have argued that the decision of these retired officers and men might be a reflection of the poor welfare package offered by the service at retirement, which might not cater for their needs and those of their family members, which necessitates developing other sources of income to augment their income while in retirement.
The stakeholders also noted that many of the retired ones that engage in cargo clearing are usually those that retire at the very lower cadre like below the rank of Superintend, arguing that those that retire from the rank of Assistant Comptrollers hardly engage in such businesses atleast directly.
They therefore called on the management of the service to up its game in terms of providing adequate welfare packages for its retired workforce so that they would have enough resources to enjoy their retirement.