The Senate has asked the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, to investigate the extortion of Nigerians engaged in legitimate business in border communities by officers under his watch.
The Red Chamber also recommended the redeployment of Comptrollers of Kaduna/Katsina and Idiroko Area Commands.
The Senate’s resolutions followed deliberations on the report of its ad hoc Committee, which investigated the abuse of firearms by personnel of the federal revenue-generating agency. Senator Francis Fadahunsi, representing Osun East, presented the report for deliberation during Tuesday’s plenary session.
The Committee established that Customs officials extort money from traders and non-traders in border communities, issuing them unofficial receipts before allowing passage.
The report submitted by Senator Fadahunsi’s Committee specifically noted that extortion was widespread in Idiroko, Ogun State, and Jibia and Mai’adua in Katsina State.
The Committee’s report also demanded a reduction in the number of multiple checkpoints along the border communities and expressed concern over the misuse of firearms by Customs officers. These officers, while pursuing smugglers into towns, often shoot indiscriminately, leading to the loss of innocent lives.
The Senate unanimously resolved to ask the Federal Government to review the ban on selling petroleum products within 20 kilometres of border communities.
A portion of the Committee’s report reads as follows: “The government should direct the Comptroller General of Customs and heads of other security agencies to reduce the multiple checkpoints mounted along the corridors of border communities as a matter of national inclusion. This will facilitate the free flow of goods, especially farm produce, in and around these communities to the main towns and markets in the border areas.
“The Comptroller General of Customs should investigate and review the alleged issuance of unofficial receipts to traders and non-traders in Jibia and Mai’adua, Katsina State, by Customs officials and other security agencies.
This practice has caused untold hardship to people living in these communities, as moving goods (such as farm produce) across major markets and even to Katsina town and other neighbouring states is a challenging task.
“The Comptroller General of Customs should redeploy the Comptrollers of Katsina/Kaduna and Idiroko Area Commands and appoint replacements who should establish a robust community engagement program. This will foster a healthy relationship, enabling Customs to fulfil its mandate without being insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people in the communities.
“The Federal Government should lift the 20-kilometre ban on selling petroleum products in border communities. This policy threatens peaceful coexistence, denies people the right to belong to the larger Nigerian society, and causes significant hardship in these communities.
“Federal Government should consider the ancestral bonds and relationships that exist between the border communities in Nigeria when formulating policies.” [Nigerian Tribune]