•Customs’ searchlight on their owners, even if belated, is good for the system
It sounded so strange when the Nigerian Customs Service announced that it would soon embark on verification of the documents of private jets in the country. The agency, known mainly for inspecting imports, noted that some private jet owners could be undermining the country’s security system by their operations, hence its resolve to step up verification exercise.
While the customs is known to be more concerned about meeting revenue targets every year, its foray into security of lives and property is welcome, since we need all hands on deck, especially where the agencies bear arms. We recall that the customs service was the first to raise alarm last year that insurgents had begun to settle in villages around the Federal Capital Territory. The information was credited to its intelligence unit and was meant for its personnel.
This is the way to go. All agencies of government, indeed all citizens should get involved in tackling the security concerns, especially as insecurity is spreading to all parts of the country. Although some people have suggested that the customs service appears to be more interested in raking up more revenue from owners of the private jets, we cannot dismiss the fact that it also has a responsibility to complement the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the national security agencies in ensuring that the jets are not deployed into illegal use. The Nigeria Immigration Service, too, should step up its involvement in securing the country’s territorial integrity.
In its statutory responsibility, the customs service should step up inspection of imports into the country with a view to arresting importers of illegal goods, especially small arms and light weapons. On a number of occasions, arms had been smuggled through the seaports without detection by the agency. This should stop. The service should be provided with gadgets needed to perform its functions.
With regards to the private jets, it has been observed that some have been deployed to import arms that are then diverted to forests in volatile parts of the country such as the states in the North West. Where it is discovered, as the customs is suggesting, that some or many of the jets in the country are not properly licensed and may not be easily traced in case of infraction of regulations, the appropriate NCAA officials should be held for dereliction of duties. This is the time for concerted efforts to pull Nigeria back from the precipice as it holds the key to assisting other African countries economically, socially and ensuring stability on the continent.
Coordinators of national security should sit and come up with strategies to solve the challenges. Hitherto, it would appear that ad hoc measures have been applied to the all-important duty. Nigeria can no longer, with all the resources it commands, be regarded as the laggard of Africa. Countries like South Africa, Egypt and Kenya should not be allowed to dictate the pace on the continent. Even in the West Africa sub-region, Ghana is almost being regarded as the leader now, with many companies and international organisations preferring to settle in that country.
It is time to stop the ad hoc approach to securing the country; we all have to sit up now. We no longer want to be told that there would be no sacred cows in security and revenue matters. We want to see it in action. If we are to catch up with other countries taking giant strides, the government at all levels should show the way forward.