Governor Rochas Okorocha has called for a Summit between Igbo traders and the Nigerian Customs at the highest level for understanding and to correct certain impressions in some quarters that some of the actions and Policies of the Customs are targeted at the Igbo traders, stating that such impressions could also be false.
Governor Okorocha also advised the Customs’ Personnel to Concentrate at the borders in doing their works, instead of mounting road blocks in the Cities, stating that if the customs’ personnel do what they are expected to do at the borders they have no business mounting road blocks again in the Cities.
Governor Okorocha spoke when the Comptroller of Customs, Federal Operations, Zone C, Mr. Azarema. A. Abubakar paid him courtesy call on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at the Government House Owerri, regretting that there has been a very dangerous communication gap between the Customs authorities and the Igbo traders or business men, adding that Communication is key in the relationship between the two interest groups.
He said, “Custom Operatives should Concentrate at the borders and not inside the Cities, Chasing goods or materials that have passed the borders which shows leakage at the borders. Once the goods have passed the borders and enter the Cities, checking them becomes the duty of the Police and no more the functions of the Customs’ officials”.
According to him “Custom officials have no business mounting road blocks inside the Cities. Even the issue of under-payment should not be the responsibility of the Customs. Customs should also assist the NDLEA to fight illicit drugs, because the NDLEA does not have the needed personnel and resources to fight illicit drugs”.
His words “I request that Customs’ authorities come down to Imo State or anywhere in the South-East and talk to the Igbo traders because 90% of the importers are Igbos, come and talk to them and explain to them why the customs take the actions or do some of the things they do that do not go down well with the importers. Our people misunderstand some of these customs’ actions. The impression in the country now is that the Igbos are been witch-hunted by the customs on daily basis because they are Igbos. While that may not be true, there is need to give them proper explanation to some of these actions”.
He stated “Due to this lack of communication, some corrupt custom officials take advantage of it and extort money from innocent importers. I will be ready to discuss with my brother governors on this summit. This will help to smoothen the relationship between customs and Igbo importers because for now the relationship is sour and not good for our national unity”.
He said “Another problem that must be taken care of is the situation where somebody will clear his goods at Apapa Wharf with receipts and when the person gets to Owerri or Aba, they will stop him and insist that he underpaid. It is not the duty of somebody who is here to decide whether somebody underpaid or not in Lagos instead people that cleared him should be held responsible. This double payment of customs duties should stop especially on this side of South-East. This is extortion in my understanding”.
He continued “I Commend the customs for saving millions of lives in Nigeria through the seizure of illegal arms imported into the country as each of those AK47 could take over 100 lives if they enter into the wrong hands. I encourage that the prosecution of those importers who bring in the containers should be made known to the public to serve as a deterrent to others. All we hear is that this number of pump Actions have been seized and AK47 also seized but at the end, the public will not be informed of what has happened to the people that bring in these guns. Custom owes it a duty to explain to people actions taken on persons who commit these crimes”.
Comptroller Customs, Federal Operations Zone C, Mr. Azarema .A. Abubakar told the governor that Zone C, is made of South-South and South-East with headquarters in Owerri, adding that the South-East is the hub of trade which makes it incumbent on them to seek for Cooperation and support of the governor.
He said aside checking illegal goods or import the Customs also have to do the job as a security agency, adding that they would work closely with all the relevant persons and bodies.