Efforts aimed at fighting corruption in the country have further received a boost with the inter-agency partnership launched between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The anti-corruption programme according to both agencies, was an initiative designed to help stop smuggling activities at the borders as well as fire the consciousness of its officers and men and improve integrity and quality service.
Other objectives of the programme is to educate officers on key areas of EFCC/NCS mandates and activities for greater synergy, complementary roles and when to take advantage of the special powers of the EFCC as spelt out in the Establishment Act.
It is also aimed at encouraging officers to undertake a re-examination of their work processes and procedures for possible areas of vulnerability to acts of corruption and enhance their ability to identify such loopholes in their various units and departments.
Furthermore, the programme aims to encourage the NCS to create an integrity or zero tolerance unit to sustain the campaign against corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at the work place.
Speaking after a 2-kilometre anti-corruption walk in Abuja, which was part of the programme launch, Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko Inde, noted that in building the synergy, the agencies were sending strong signals to all economic saboteurs that they now face a more difficult task to evade payment of Customs duty or smuggle prohibited goods through the borders.
“In embarking on this anti-corruption journey, we have fully prepared our officers and men for zero tolerance through our 6-point agenda. We have improved their capacity through training and boosted their welfare through salary increase,”he stated.
He added that Customs have also introduced full automation into its process to reduce physical contacts and environment for corruption, even as he urged economic saboteurs to reflect on why they would want the closure of local factories, keep unemployed graduates on the streets and compromise national security through their activities.
“How much money is enough? How much is enough to compromise national security? How much is enough to keep our factories closed? How much is enough to keep unemployed graduates on the streets? How much is enough to compromise our collective good?” Dikko asked.
According to him, each time members of the trading community were tempted to induce officers of the law, or pressurise officers to compromise their position, they should always ask themselves those pertinent questions, even as he urged all stakeholders and Nigerians in general to support the campaign aimed at instilling integrity into the Services’ operations.
“In this campaign, we have found a worthy partner -the EFCC- to cooperate with us and spread the message that together we are forging a united stand against corruption. In the past, the Customs-EFCC collaboration has been a reference point of best practice. Our officers seconded to the Commission are instrumental to the Commissions success. We have worked closely together in special joint operations, investigations and training.
“Today I am glad to note that we are extending the frontier of our collaboration to fighting corruption. In building this synergy, we are sending strong signals to all economic saboteurs that they now face a more difficult task to evade payment of Customs duty or smuggle prohibited goods through our borders,” he said.
Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, while speaking during the launch of the partnership, said the programme would go a long way to showing that both agencies, as key players in law enforcement, have zero tolerance for corruption. He said past collaborative efforts at the entry and exit points have helped stopped criminal elements in their evil tracks.
He explained that the programme was specially designed for public and private sector workers in direct response to the mandate of the Commission to prevent economic crimes, including corruption. He said Section 6 of the EFCC Act requires EFCC to, in addition to its enforcement responsibilities, take measures to prevent economic crimes.
While informing that the programme would involve educating officers on key areas of EFCC/NCS mandates, Lamorde called on the Customs boss to accept an EFCC proposal for the establishment of an NCS Integrity Unit(NIU) for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the Service.
While commending the comptroller-general for accepting to partner with the EFCC in the fight against corruption, Lamorde said similar campaigns have, in the past, been extended to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) the Ministry of Transport amongst others.
“This partnership will go a long way to show that the EFCC and the Nigeria Customs Service, as key players in the Nigerian law enforcement community, have zero tolerance for corruption. It will further serve as an avenue to deepen existing relations between the two agencies,” Lamorde said.
According to the EFCC chairman, the inter-agency cooperation which commenced almost as soon as the EFCC came on the scene in 2003, has grown in leaps and bounds to include the sharing of intelligence and the exchange of personnel among others.
“The experiences shared and lessons learnt from this interaction and the ones scheduled to hold in various Customs Commands around the country, I believe, should be the resilient framework on which the relationship between our two agencies should be built, going forward,” the EFCC boss added.
The programme, which is in line with the preventive provision of EFCC establishment Act 2004, which mandates it to adopt measures which include collaboration and regulatory actions aimed at prevention of economic related crimes is also in tandem with the Arusha Revised Declaration which places the obligation of good governance and integrity squarely on the shoulders of Customs administrations in the world.
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