The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Monday directed a jocular remark at the Comptroller-General of Customs Service, Hameed Ali, saying the latter could be allowed to appear before the Senate for official engagement in casualwear, if he was able to end smuggling.
“To the Comptroller General of Customs, let me say on a lighter note, that once you end smuggling, even if you want to wear jeans and T-Shirt, I will move the motion that you should wear jeans and T-Shirt,” said Mr. Saraki. “But on a serious note, this issue is very important. Let us all work towards ending this menace once and for all.”
Mr. Saraki spoke at the public hearing on tackling smuggling by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs at the National Assembly, Abuja, on Thursday.
At the hearing, he exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Ali, who had brushed aside the Senate’s resolution he wear official customs uniform to attend its hearing in March.
According to the Senate President, smuggling constitutes the “greatest threat” to the economic diversification drive of the Buhari administration.
“The singular greatest threat to the delivery of the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari on the diversification of the economy is this issue of smuggling,” the Senate President said.
He continued: “The level of smuggling that we are seeing cannot continue because they will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on. I am saying that with all sincerity and all level of responsibility and I tell you why.
“Today, the greatest threat to small holder farmers is smuggling. Today, rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidised rate.”
“The meaning of that is that the imported rice will always be cheaper than those produced by our local farmers. A time will come, if we do not do anything, that these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis. The banks that have given loans to these farmers, will also have crisis in their hands. And for the Central Banks that has intervened with billions of Naira again will not be able to recoup their money.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, Hope Uzodinma, earlier said that the public hearing was part of the committee’s holistic investigation into the operations of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme, CISS with a view to identify the factors responsible for increasing the rate of smuggling of goods into the country.
He said the exercise was also aimed at proffering solutions to the menace of smuggling and recommend appropriate penalties to be visited on perpetrators.