The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has been losing its cases against smugglers over reluctance by its officials to testify in the court. Customs had arrested some smugglers in the past, but only a few of them were convicted due to improper compilation of case files. The service’s Assistant Comptroller General in charge of Zone A, Modupe Aremu, noted in Lagos that after making seizures, Customs officials were not always willing to testify in court, leading to loss of cases. She said: “We are losing most of our cases in court because our case files are not properly compiled. Your case file has to be properly compiled and detailed. “When we go to court, we lose most of our cases because most of our officers are not willing to testify in court.
“This is why the legal adviser has been hammering on proper compilation of case files and the officer needs to be able to testify in court. You cannot make a seizure and you are not willing to testify in court, we would lose the case.” On various alerts on cargoes, Aremu called for proper examination and input of the Customs Inspection Act, warning that officers at Tincan Island Port, Port and Terminal Multi-service Limited (PTML) and Lagos Port should stop delaying cargoes for several weeks under the guise of the cargo being on alert.
She said: “I must emphasise the need for proper examination. When you do proper examination and you imput your inspection Act properly, you don’t have anything to fear, even if you see alerts from anywhere and you examine and you are sure you input your inspection Act properly, you can use it to close the alert. “I have heard officers keeping jobs for weeks, saying that it’s alerted, they drop names of people from headquarters; this is not the way to go. To whom much is given, much is expected; the CGC is committed to improving the image of the Service, and we also have a part to play.
“You can do an on-the-job training maybe 30 minutes daily when you come early; we need to talk to ourselves and mentor officers, it’s a source of inspiration; when we talk to them, they would change, because we need to change, we need attitudinal change.” The assistant customs comptroller advised the deputy comptrollers at the commands to mentor and train the officers under them, saying that the Service is in dare need of attitudinal change.
It would be recalled that in March 2021, NCS, Ogun Area 1 Command, Idiroko, arraigned four members of a smuggling syndicate before the Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta for importing foreign rice into the country without payment of the approved import duties. The four suspects, Azeez Zonu, Ebenezer Adeyemi, Adeniyi Olalekan and Salahudeen Taiye, were arraigned on a-five count charge bothering on smuggling, evasion of imports duties, possession of smuggled items, as well as assisting in smuggling, among others. However, after pleading not guilty to all the offences leveled against them, two defense counsels, S.O. Kayode, who stood in for Olalekan and A.I. Nadir, who represented the trio of Zonu, Adeyemi and Salahudeen, prayed the court to admit the four accused persons to bail, stressing that they are presumed not guilty until proven otherwise. Citing sections 158, 162 and 164 of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, as well as Section 36, sub-section 5 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), the two defence counsels prayed the court to invoke these appropriate sections in favour of the accused persons. Delivering his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Muhammad Shittu Abubakar, granted each of the accused persons bail in the sum of N2 million with two sureties in like sum.