Customs Drag SON to the Cleaners for Denying Involvement of Officers in Cargo Inspections

Hameed Ali

By DAPO OLAWUNI

The Nigeria Customs Service has dragged the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to the cleaners for saying that its officials are not usually invited to partake in joint cargo examination at the port.

While supervising destruction of cable wires, stuffed tyres, and gas cylinders worth billions of Naira in Amuwo Odofin Lagos on Wednesday, the SON DG, Mallam Farouk Salim said his officers are not given unfettered access to the port to partake in joint cargo examinations by the customs.

However, in a press statement issued on Friday by the Public Relations Officer of Customs, Mr Timi Bomodi, he said the statement by the SON DG was a lie.

Bomodi stated that there is an existing open channels of communication between officials of SON and Customs Area Commands should the need arise for clarifications or interventions and that it’s officials usually partake in examinations.

“We want to state that the allegations are untrue. The Nigeria Customs Service is fully cognizant that strategic cooperation among security and regulatory agencies lies at the heart of national security willfully works in tandem with other security and regulatory agencies including SON to achieve national goals.

“Under the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS II), SON and other regulatory agencies of government are linked directly and frequently make inputs in reference to items of significance to their operations. At no time has NCS refused to oblige them with any request. Indeed the Nigeria Customs Service even without intervention from SON on its own directs suspicious items bordering on brand and intellectual property rights infringements to them.

“SON has access to our systems, are informed and fully participates in examinations and even go as far as collect product samples were necessary during examinations for their investigations. Even the field inspection process chart on the SON official website shows the involvement of SON at the ports and borders during examinations.

“Therefore this statement ascribed to the DG creates a totally false narrative and is viewed as an attempt to portray the NCS in a negative light. It is questionable, raises serious concerns and calls for scrutiny by discerning members of the public. It is also self-condemning, regrettable and exposes SON as being incapable of living up to its mandate.

“If after issuing certificates, participating in examinations, taking samples for further investigations and authorizing release to the NCS, substandard goods find their way into the open market the DG SON should look inwards.

“While success is said to breed opposition, the success of the NCS is not achieved by tarnishing the image of another agency just to look good or score cheap points. Our nation at this time needs every security and regulatory agency to trust and work as a team for our socio-economic wellbeing. We urge the DG SON and his agency not to be self-seeking, leave the path of rivalry and collaborate towards achieving national interest” Bomodi said

While fielding questions from journalists on Wednesday in Lagos, the SON DG was asked how fake and substandard products find their way into Nigerian markets despite his men partaking in joint cargo examinations with the customs.

Responding, he said “We are not always invited for joint inspection, in fact, our invitation for joint inspection is rare and in-between, but I guarantee you that if our officers get opportunities to inspect these products, the moment they look at it from their experience, they would be able to detect the substandard goods.

“Don’t forget that our fellow brothers and sisters in the customs service are only trained to charge for duty payment, they have no idea what cable looks like or what a substandard goods looks like.

“Our own people are trained from beginning to the end on how to check these products and know if they are substandard.

“We do not have unfettered access like the constitution said we should, the law in 2015 Act says that we must be allowed to be at the port, it is not a favor that we should be waiting on someone to call us into the port, we as Nigerians and part of the government by law, unless the law is changed by the National Assembly, signed by Mr President, the law says that SON must and should be at the port, not at the discretion of any other organizations” he fumes

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