Alleged Corruption in Customs: Government’s Silence Condemnable

It has been almost two months since the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) released a report revealing deep-rooted corruption in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and no action has been taken by the Nigerian government till date.

Development Diaries in February called on the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for the supervisory oversight of the NCS, and the NCS boss, Bashir Adeniyi, to initiate an investigation led by an independent body with no affiliations to the customs service or any implicated parties.

Sadly, this call has been greeted with a loud silence.

The silence of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration in the face of such revelations of corruption in the NCS is sending a concerning message to citizens and the international community.

In such a context, silence can be interpreted in several ways, each carrying its own implications.

The government’s silence on the allegations suggests a lack of willingness or ability to hold accountable those responsible for corrupt practices within the NCS, and this lack of accountability undermines the rule of law and erodes trust in government institutions.

The silence could also be perceived as tacit approval or even complicity with the corruption within the NCS which is unfortunate.

Speaking on Development Diaries’  ‘Let’s Talk Naija’ on X Space, the Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Ibrahim Zikirullahi, noted that any responsible government should have taken action within 24 hours after the revelations.

‘Fisayo’s undercover report was so detailed, any responsible government would have within 24 hours taken serious action to hold those responsible accountable, but unfortunately, that is not the case’, he said.

‘Is the Nigerian customs above the law? Certainly, there are certain political powers involved for them to be able to do what they’re doing because they have taken themselves to be above the laws of the country’.

Also speaking on the matter, the Country Director of Accountability Lab, Odeh Friday, mentioned that he expected the Code of Conduct Bureau to have taken action following the revelations.

‘Another issue on this development is the issue of anti-corruption agencies who are supposed to show some leadership, and I will mention one – the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)’, he said.

‘They need to summon people because there is already a code of conduct in the law, which must be implemented, and we have to start with public servants and, in this case, the Nigeria Customs Service, to make sure the people responsible are questioned’.

We also believe that the silence of the government regarding this can deepen public disappointment and suspicion, particularly if citizens perceive it as a betrayal of their trust.

What then is expected to be done?

One of the reasons identified for the failure to fight corruption in government institutions is the lack of a corruption strategy by the present administration.

To this end, Zikirullahi suggested immediate action in the development of a corruption strategy.

‘President Bola Tinubu must without delay commence the establishment of a comprehensive national strategy to fight corruption because, without a national strategy for fighting corruption, which not only can guide the anti-corruption agencies, the civil society organisations can buy into it and drive it to success’, he said.

Zikurullahi also called for the immediate suspension from office the officers that have been fingered in the issue of corruption in the customs and their prosecution.

As part of reforms, Odey called for the strengthening of anti-corruption agencies and their efforts, and for them to work collaboratively to improve anti-corruption efforts within the NCS.

‘We need to improve institutional governance from the head – the person who leads that organisation – to ensure that zero tolerance for corruption is put in place’, he said. ‘If nothing happens, most people will continue in the act of corruption’.

Addressing corruption in the NCS requires more than just rhetoric; it demands concrete actions, such as thorough investigations, prosecution of those involved, reforms to enhance transparency and accountability, and a commitment to uphold the rule of law.

Photo source: NCS


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