The need to get the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to optimise its potential as the nation’s cash cow informed President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Col. Hameed Ali as its Comptroller-General, the Presidency said at the weekend.
Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu said the government believes that the Customs Service could triple its revenue target.
Fielding questions from reporters, he said: “Do you, in all sincerity, know Col. Hameed Ali?
“If you do know him, how many of his types do we have in this country? This is the man who many probably felt should have gone to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). But, looking at the critical place of the Customs in the economy of this country, you need somebody like him.
“After oil, the next revenue spinner for the government is the Customs. In these few days we have been listening to briefings, I have seen people flying ideas that Customs revenue can be tripled and that there are ideas that can lead to the revenue being tripled on the basis that corruption is eliminated.
“I think that Col. Ali has a rare breed of reputation that will be difficult to find. There might be a few people in the Customs, but maybe they are too low in rank to warrant this appointment.
“I think the President has done the best thing anybody can do for the Customs and for the economy of this country. Otherwise, smuggling will ruin Nigeria. Look at what is happening in the textile industry in Aba, Ikeja, Kaduna, Kano and Gashua.
“There was a time when they used to employ about 400,000 people. All the textile companies in the country today can no longer employ more than 30,000 people. We have more Nigerians in need of clothing today than those so-called glorious days of the textile industry. This is just one example.
“Look at the issue of rice. Ebonyi, Anambra, Niger, Osun, Kebbi, Sokoto and Kogi states have been brought together by the President and given the marching order to produce the rice need of this country. The rice industry in this country has failed because cheap Asian rice is being dumped here. The President did not ban importation because that would have offended the World Trade organisation (WTO).
“What he has done is to say if you want to import rice, go and source your dollars anywhere you can get it. But the CBN and the banks will always supply to manufacturers who want to bring in spare parts, equipment and employ Nigerians and for those who want to pay for medical bills abroad and maybe for school fees.