President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the comptroller-general of customs, Abdullahi Dikko, to weed out corrupt officers and men whose activities tarnish the image of the Service.
Jonathan gave the directive while presenting his keynote address at the opening of a four-day Comptroller-General's Annual Conference, at the main auditorium of the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua University, Katsina State, yesterday.
He commended the Service for embarking on reforms which have resulted in improved revenue generation for the country.
"I must commend the Comptroller-General and the entire Customs Service for the clear improvement that from N30 billion monthly revenue, we are today at about N100 billion and the CG has confidently informed me that very soon it will increase to N150 billion per month," Jonathan said.
The president who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, noted that while the on-going reforms in the service were laudable, more still needed to be done to correct the lingering perception of corruption and fraud in the Service.
He said: "In line with our administration is zero tolerance for corruption the customs service must constantly examine itself by weeding out corrupt men and officers whose activities tarnish the image of the service. You must faithfully abide by the principles of good governance which encapsulates transparency and integrity."
He noted that the theme of the 2012 conference: "Borders Divide: Customs Connect," was apt considering current development in international trade chain. He commended the service for religiously playing its role as the primary enforcer of trade services and the nation's gatekeeper over the years.
The president, while noting the service's efforts at preventing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, promised to continue to give the required support to checkmate the activities of those involved in the illicit trade and bring perpetrators to book.
However, he said, persistent smuggling and other criminal activities at the nation's ports of entry required the service to build collaboration with other Customs administrations across the world even as he added that constant networking and exchange of vital information with sister agencies would guarantee the reduction of high risk shipment in the international supply chain.
In his remarks, speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tambuwal, noted that it was obvious that unless better collaboration was worked out between the Customs and other security agencies, border security would be undermined.
He promised that efforts would be made to ensure that the new Customs bill currently before the National Assembly, when passed will contain the kind of laws which would provide the service the ability to perform better.
On his part, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, also urged the service to address the perceived image of corruption, noting that it was not only damaging, but could attract all manner of people to the service because they think it is a place where they can quickly become rich through corruption.
He commended the Single window programme which will eliminate physical contact between Customs officer and the business community in all import, export chain, stressing that "all actions and inactions which has led the public to associate the Service with corruption must be addressed."
Earlier in his welcome address, Dikko, while assuring that the Service will deliver on its mandate expressed confidence of a seamless take-over from its service providers in December 2012.
Also in her address, the minister of finance and coordination minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was represented by the minister of state for finance, Yerima Ngama, said the conference was an avenue to appraise the performance of the service.
The minister noted that plans were underway to partner with the Ministry of Science and Technology for the deployment of satellite surveillance to monitor the borders in addition to other efforts in order to check smuggling and ensure border security.
In attendance at the event were former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Shehu Shagari, Emir of Katsina, Oni of Ife, Obi of Onitsha, Deji of Akure, Emir of Gwandu, Emir of Argungu, Etsu Nupe, Emir of Gombe, and service chiefs among others eminent Nigerians.
Also present were the directors-general of Customs of the Republic of Benin and Niger Republic.
Shema calls for more funding for customs
Meanwhile, Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema has called on the federal government to increase funding to the Nigeria Customs Service to enable it to effectively discharge its duties.
He noted that the service had recorded tremendous achievements under the present administration with revenue collection rising from N30 billion to N100 billion.
He also urged the service to ensure better administrative control and advised against frequent transfers which he said does not help revenue collection. He said the issue of job security should be seriously looked into in the sevice to encourage officers to put in their best.
The governor further noted that the Katsina State has prioritised the issue of education saying that education at primary and secondary level is free in the state even as there is scholarship at the tertiary level.
The governor further disclosed that so far the State has not borrowed any money to advance its development projects since he came on board in 2007.
He noted that the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua University whose main auditorium was commissioned yesterday by Vice President Namadi Sambo, was completed by the state government without any recourse to borrowing. He explianed that the foundation for the university was laid two months before he assumed office in 2007, by former President Obasanjo.