Global insight

The systematic wholesale rip-off of trade $billions

Nigeria targets Customs corruption

TO DESCRIBE the task of eradicating corruption from Nigeria’s Customs as herculean would in itself be a corrupt understatement, writes Thelma Etim.

Historical and entrenched, corruption’s prevalence has overshadowed the nation’s commercial positives, such as it being Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of more than US$500bn – and its production of the most oil (more than two million barrels a day) on the continent.

Indeed, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector has been the key driver of the economy for many decades.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the country’s finance minister and former World Bank managing director, told global management consulting firm McKinsey that Nigeria’s economy has grown about seven per cent over the last 10 years.

She also underscored the importance of the nation’s emerging consumer class.

“The creation of a rising middle class and the opportunities offered for a growth driven by internal consumption, a growth driven by the non-oil sector but really by services, manufacturing, agriculture – that story is the one that we look to for the future that is going to provide sustainable economic development for this country.”

Having a transparent, above-reproach national Customs operation is vital for Nigeria’s bilateral trade ambitions, increased competitiveness and cargo security.

But another important by-product of having a reliable Customs system is its ability to influence global public perception and in particular the confidence of potential investors.

Enter the new head of Nigeria Customs Service (NIC): Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali.

The number of recent high-profile arrests and ongoing investigations suggest that Ali is already ushering in a new era.

“The mandate he (Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari) has given me [comprise] three basic things: ‘Go to Customs, reform Customs, restructure Customs and increase the revenue generation – simple’,” he told senior staff during his first management meeting following his appointment last month, according to a statement on the NIC website.

“I don’t think that is ambiguous. I don’t think that is cumbersome. It is precise and I believe that is what all of you are here to do.”

Air Cargo Eye will be monitoring Nigeria’s progress in realising its ambition of a less corrupt future.

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