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President Tinubu’s reluctance to tackle corruption puts Nigeria’s democracy at great risk.

Nigerians are awakened to the odious corruption crisis threatening our nascent democracy. If it is not the National Assembly that is enmeshed in budget padding, it will be the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation that is diverting billions of Naira meant for poverty alleviation to private pockets, or the office of Accountant-General of the Federation that is swallowing public funds. From the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the least agency of our public institutions, the stench of corruption is so apparent for one to feel and touch. Pension funds, and capital budgets meant for health, infrastructure, security, education have all been siphoned off through corrupt means. Today, individuals under investigation by the EFCC and ICPC hold influential positions in the government and National Assembly. This trend is fueling the growth of corruption, weakening the anti-corruption agencies, and widening the gap between the voters and the politicians.

However, the focus of today’s press briefing is centered on the Nigeria Customs Service. On February 27, 2024, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported a corruption scandal involving a group of seven high-ranking officers from the Nigeria Customs Service. According to Premium Times, an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission revealed these officers were found to have accepted a total of N12 billion in bribes from smugglers in exchange for turning a blind eye to their illegal activities. Among those implicated in the scandal were Mr. Kayode Kolade, the Comptroller of the Federal Operation Unit Zone C in Port Harcourt, who received a bribe of N9.5 billion (equivalent to about $6.33 million); Mr. Ibrahim Jalo, the Area Controller of Zone B in Kaduna, who received N1.1 billion. Upon Mr. Jalo’s arrest, he was found in possession of $32,000 and N500,000 in cash. Other officers involved in the scheme included Mr. Nurudeen Musa, who received N950 million; Mr. Hamisu Ibrahim, who received N120 million; and Mr. Madugu Saleh and Mohammed Rabiu, who received N85 million and N84 million, respectively.

In a related development, undercover investigator Fisayo Soyombo of Foundation for Investigative Journalism revealed the complicity of Nigerian customs officers. Fisayo’s 16-minute undercover video showed how easy it is to smuggle anything into Nigeria with the complicity of corrupt customs officials. The video concluded, “If you pay the right amount of bribe, you can smuggle anything into the country.”

However, corruption and the involvement of Nigerian customs in smuggling activities are not only recent occurrences. In 2016, four deputy comptrollers of customs, five assistant comptrollers, and seven chief superintendents, were among the 29 high-ranking officials sacked for various offences. Former Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, identified the lack of integrity as the primary challenge faced by the Nigeria Customs Service when announcing the termination of 2,000 customs officials in 2020 for involvement in corrupt practices. Despite these actions, successive governments have chosen to overlook numerous investigations into the Nigeria Customs Service. In a 2022 undercover investigation of the booming petroleum products smuggling, “TheCable found that all one needs to move petrol with ease to the Benin Republic is to pay N67,000 for a ‘pass’ issued by unidentified officials of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).” In the Cross River-Cameroun border covered in the investigation, TheCable revealed that “smugglers moving fuel from Cross River to Cameroon operate under the organized cartel known as Nitrate Union, a branch of the United Border Across, the umbrella union that oversees the smuggling of all kinds of commodities across the Cameroon border.” The report further showed that the “chairman of the smuggler’s association is in charge to go and see customs, see immigration; all the forces; they have an amount they will collect and share within themselves.”

An earlier undercover investigation of the Customs Service, in 2015, also by Fisayo Soyombo for TheCable newspaper, exposed the criminal operations of gangs of customs and other border and security agencies, including police, SSS, NDLEA, clearing agents, and banks complicit in the lucrative business of forgery, bribery and corruption to aid importers circumvent official processes and levies. The investigation demonstrated the existence of a well-oiled corruption in the Apapa Office of the Nigeria Ports Authority that results to colossal revenue loss to Nigeria. According to the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Nigeria loses up to $1.95 billion in government revenue and $8.15 billion in private sector revenue annually due to corruption at the Nigerian ports.

But the Nigeria customs is not only known for compromising and selling intelligence to smugglers in order to facilitate the entry of illegal goods. It is also notorious for blatantly disregarding Nigeria’s public sector financial regulation rules. The 2019 report of the Auditor-General of the Federation highlighted numerous issues concerning the financial reporting and accountability of the Nigeria Customs Service. These issues included the failure to remit levies into the federation account, the irregular granting of waivers to companies, the irregular granting of waivers to staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the under-remittance of import duties and fees. These actions clearly demonstrate a serious abuse of financial rules and an abuse of power by the Customs Service. According to the auditor-general’s report, of the N115.64 billion collected on behalf of the federation representing CET levies, levies for wheat flour, wheat grain, rice levies, and 100% cigarette levies, the Nigeria customs failed to remit N65.51b to any known account and did not respond to audit queries regarding this finding. Another N78.48 billion was granted as waivers by Nigeria Customs “with no evidence of applications, authorizations/approvals, certificates of Capital Allowance granted to the Companies, etc. before the waivers were granted to such companies.”- The report also found that Nigeria Customs Service granted a N17.4m illegally to 14 staff of the Ministry of foreign affairs without any FAAC approval leading. In another case, the audit discovered a huge under-remittance of N1.53billion by the Nigeria customs out of import duties and fees that it collected in the 2019 financial year. The biggest worry for Nigerians and the agencies responsible for oversight of the Nigeria Customs Service is the management’s failure to respond to the audit findings.


Weak oversight and lack of accountability in the Nigeria customs- a threat to Nigeria and Nigeria’s democracy

The Nigeria Customs Service Act provides for the establishment of a Governing board – in section 7(1) – which shall have powers, among other things, “to review and approve strategic plans for the Service, and recruit, promote and discipline officers of the Service.” Despite these powers, the Board is no more than a lap puppy for the Minister of Finance going by S.12 of the Act, which limits the power of the Board. According to S.12, “in the exercise of the powers and duties conferred upon the Board, the Board shall be subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Minister and any written direction, order or instruction given by him after consultation with the Comptroller-General shall be carried out by the Board.

Further regulation of the Customs Service is contained in S. 21 of the Act, which states that “the Service shall not later than three months before the end of each year, submit to the National Assembly a report on the activities and the administration of the Service during the immediately preceding year and shall include in such reports, audited accounts of the Service and the Auditor’s report on those accounts.” If properly executed, this provision offers a credible mechanism for the National Assembly to hold the Nigeria Customs Service accountable and force far-reaching reforms that can eventually cleanse the Service, improve border and security operations, and curb the financial hemorrhage that results from the bribery, corruption, and forgery in the Nigeria Customs. Sadly, the National Assembly has failed to lead any transformational effort on the strength of the various investigation reports or the auditor general report. Consequently, the Nigeria Customs Service has continued to operate with impunity. The Minister of Finance, Board of the Nigeria Customs Service, and the National Assembly are complicit and partly accountable for the rot and lack of accountability in the Nigeria Customs Service.


Threat to democracy and national security

The latest undercover investigation by Fisayo detailed how he successfully smuggled 100 bags of banned foreign rice by paying bribes through a syndicate group of smugglers who closely collaborate with high-ranking officials of the Customs service in Abuja. The 16-minute video described in detail how numerous trailers carrying contraband goods, including rice, turkey, and even weapons, terrorist motorcycles, and drugs, pass through Nigeria’s borders without being inspected due to what he described as orders from higher authorities. The two undercover reports on the Customs Service by Fisayo provide conclusive evidence of criminal networks of customs officers working in collaboration with other border and security agencies to sabotage national security for personal gains. It is even more disturbing when the corruption ring is not restricted to junior ranks but involves senior, high-ranking officials who would not hesitate to sell the country for a pot of porridge!

CHRICED, as a frontline organization committed to promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance in Nigeria, is deeply concerned about these latest exposures of corruption involving Nigeria Customs Service. We are convinced that the Minister of Finance, the Board of the Nigeria Customs, and the National Assembly must urgently respond to the EFCC investigation report, undercover investigations by Mr. Soyombo of 2015 and 2024, investigations by TheCable newspaper, and various audit reports of the Auditor General of the Federation regarding the culture of corruption and impunity in the Nigeria Customs Service.

It is disappointing that, nine months in office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has shown no clear commitment to tackling corruption. The lame suspension and removal of the former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu in connection with attempted diversion of over N585m does not project any seriousness to anticorruption. While support for democracy remains relatively high in Nigeria, it should worry the governments at all levels that almost 80% of Nigerians are dissatisfied with the way democracy works in Nigeria pointing to an urgent need for reforms to make democracy works for all. A bold, comprehensive anticorruption program is a critical first step.


In view of the above, CHRICED puts forward the following recommendations:

  1. We recommend immediate suspension and prosecution of the corrupt Customs officers identified in the EFCC investigation, along with the recovery of the entire bribe amounts they received.
  2. We call for prompt investigation, arrest, and prosecution of all officers implicated in the recent undercover investigation by Fisayo Soyombo. Specifically, we propose a thorough inquiry into the accusations of smuggling of foreign rice and other prohibited items by a senior customs officer in the video featuring the infamous smuggler, IBD Bande, who was shown threatening to kill a customs officer.
  3. We call for a comprehensive reform of the Nigeria Customs Act to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nigeria Customs Board and curtail the overbearing powers of the Minister of Finance.
  4. We suggest transparent and timely review of the annual auditor general’s report and recommendations concerning the misuse of powers by the Nigeria Customs, including the immediate initiation of measures to recover the unlawful waivers granted by Customs to companies and personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  5. We further recommend immediate implementation of other audit actions, including sanctions against the comptroller general of the Nigeria Customs regarding non-remittance of levies, taxes, and other infractions of established public sector financial regulations.
  6. Finally, we urge President Tinubu to prioritize without delay the establishment of a comprehensive national strategy to combat corruption. This strategy should aim to enhance the autonomy of anticorruption bodies, granting them the necessary independence and authority to effectively carry out their duties without any external interference or influence. This can be achieved by empowering them to investigate and prosecute corruption cases without fear of reprisal or political pressure.
  7. Additionally, it is crucial to strengthen anticorruption institutions to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency. This can be accomplished by providing them with adequate financial and human resources to fulfill their mandate. This includes recruiting and training competent and dedicated staff, as well as equipping them with the necessary tools and technology to carry out their work.
  8. Furthermore, it is imperative to rigorously enforce adherence to established financial regulations within the public sector. Any violations should be swiftly and decisively dealt with, imposing appropriate penalties on those found guilty. This will serve as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers and send a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated.
  9. Lastly, emphasis should be placed on preventive measures, such as promoting transparency and accountability in the public sector. Encouraging the adoption of best practices in financial management and procurement processes is essential. By implementing measures like regular audits, strict financial controls, and whistleblower protection mechanisms, the government can create an environment that is less susceptible to corruption.



CHRICED strongly condemns the deep-rooted corruption, deliberate sabotage, and misconduct at high levels within the Nigeria Customs Service. We urgently call for thorough investigations and a complete overhaul to restore the organization’s integrity. It is disgraceful and concerning that, despite the recent exposure of a massive bribery scandal involving senior officers, the Tinubu Administration has not taken significant action to hold those responsible accountable. We call on the President to take decisive measures to provide the necessary leadership in the fight against corruption.

The absence of accountability and transparency in our government has created a culture of impunity where those in power believe they can act without facing consequences. This erosion of public trust in our institutions has hindered our nation’s progress. Corruption affects every Nigerian, from the lack of essential services to the erosion of our democratic values.

To address this crisis, we must hold our leaders responsible for their actions and demand transparency in all government transactions. We must support the efforts of anti-corruption agencies and ensure they have the necessary resources and independence to effectively investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals.

Furthermore, we must work towards strengthening our institutions and promoting a culture of integrity and ethical behavior in our society. Only through collective action and a commitment to fighting corruption can we build a brighter future for Nigeria. We cannot allow corruption to continue to undermine our hard-earned democracy and impede our development. It is time for all Nigerians to unite against corruption and strive for a more transparent and accountable government.


Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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