By Kemi Kasumu
No fewer than 29 senior officers have been dismissed from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with 15 others sanctioned.
The disciplinary actions against them were informed by their various offences leveled against them in the service.
Only last week 17 junior officers were reportedly dismissed for various offences including absenteeism, drug addiction and certificate forgery.
Spokesman of the service, Wale Adeniyi, yesterday, said the dismissed 29 senior officers were among 44 officers who were punished for actions capable of compromising national economy and security.
The statement recalled that the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), retired Col. Hameed Ali, clarified on assumption of duties that the service would not compromise on corruption and indiscipline among its officers.
“We will give all officers fair hearing in line with the principle of natural justice. We will however insist that sanctions be punitive, not only to match the offence committed, but to serve as deterrent to others,” Ali had said at the management meeting convened to consider the report of the disciplinary committee that investigated the cases.
NCS said the process leading to the actions taken on the officers was painstaking in line with the Public Service Rules (PSR). All the officers were served with queries indicating offences committed, before they made appearances before the special investigation committee.
The committee’s recommendation was discussed and approved by the customs management. The recommendation was thereafter referred to the Presidency for ratification, in the absence of a substantive Board for the Nigeria Customs Service. All the officers affected in the exercise have been communicated accordingly, the service said.
It said the affected officers were investigated for offences including their involvement in improper examination and release of containers without proper documentation and payment of duties, illegal release of goods in advance before the arrival of vessels and collection of bribe to release prohibited items.
Other offences committed by the officers were the release of export prohibitions, fraudulent sale of seized items, use of fake certificates, and bribery to secure auctioned goods.
Giving a breakdown of the sanctions, the service said 10 of the officers were retired and the appointment of one was terminated while four others got written warnings to be of better conduct. Four officers who were investigated and tried for some offences were exonerated.
On the ranks of the affected officers, the NCS said four of them were Deputy-Comptrollers of Customs, five were Assistant-Comptrollers, seven were Chief Superintendents of Customs and four were superintendents, among others.
Ali warned that punitive sanctions would continue to be used to discipline officers who refused to embrace change.