Senate committee to investigate seized Customs goods during holidays

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

Following a resolution made by the Senate on Wednesdy to investigate allegations of economic waste against the Nigeria Customs, the chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) has said that the committee will dedicate the Yuletide to the assignment.

The lawmaker said they would start by visiting warehouses of the Nigerian Customs across Nigeria.

He said this while briefing journalists at the National Assembly in Abuja, on Thursday. He said that the committee has been inaugurated and will commence work immediately.

“All of us, being committed members of the senate, will forfeit our holidays to make sure that we get to the bottom of this. We are going to commence work immediately and we’ll be informing you on our movement across the country per time to make sure that we report success to the Senate”, he said.

The Senate had made this resolution after deliberating on a motion sponsored by Mohammed Hassam (PDP, Yobe) who disclosed that the Nigeria Customs warehouses in Kano, Kastina, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Western Marine Lagos, Eastern Marine Port Harcourt and Zone C Federal operations Owerri and Port Harcourt are currently filled with seized perishable items rotting away at great cost to the economy.

“The Senate notes that prior to now, these goods when seized are auctioned off by the customs to the general public.

“However, these auctions are rarely done in recent times and these reports show that the custom warehouses are brimming with spoiled or almost spoiled goods while people are dying of hunger”, the lawmaker had said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Melaye called for cooperation from the Nigerian Custom to enable the committee succeed.

”I want to announce that no stone will be left unturned in the course of this assignment. At the end of the day, the Nigerian people shall be the ultimate winners and beneficiaries of this work.

“We cannot have items stuck in warehouses across the country when there’s hunger in the land and money that’s supposed to accrue to government revenue, trapped in warehouses at a time where this country needs a lot of money.

“Instead of borrowing, we should make available what we have and the information we have is that most of these items are locked up in most of the custom warehouses across the nation and this will not only generate revenue for the country, it will also make food available to the common man.”

The lawmaker also said anyone found wanting will face the wrath of the law as “we will not shy from making stiff recommendations where necessary.”

“We want to announce that where heads are supposed to roll, heads will roll. This committee will take this assignment very seriously and no warehouse of the Nigerian Custom will be spared from visitation and we do hope that we’ll get full cooperation by the Nigerian Custom and security agencies as we are determined to get to the bottom of this investigation and then report back to the senate”, he added.

While responding to a question on whether the committee can deliver positive results, especially in the light of its inability to persuade the executive to implement its past resolutions on the Customs Comptroller General, Hameed Ali and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, Mr. Melaye said Nigerians have nothing to worry about.

“It will be very wrong to attribute the failure of the executive to carry out resolutions of the senate, on the senate. Our job is to oversight, our job is to discover problems, our  job is to make recommendations and suggestions which the senate has done perfectly.

“It is now left for the executive to implement whatever resolutions we have carried out. On the issue of Magu, you know there was a conclusion by the senate and it is not for the senate to implement, it is for the executive.

“Even on the case of the comptroller general, we came up with a resolutions and recommendations. It is not in our place to implement what we have recommended. The question, therefore, is meant for those who have refused to implement what we have resolved.

“The Senate is purely a legislative body; we are not going to use the sins of yesterday to judge what we are doing today”, he said.

Commending the Senate for setting up the committee, Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) stressed that President Muhammadu Buhari has since directed that some of the food items (in the said warehouses) be distributed to people and that instead of complying with this directive, “they’re (Customs) still having them in the warehouses and I think it is the work of this committee to ensure that this is done.”

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