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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NewslodgeReports on Tinubu’s Involvement in 12 Billion Naira Bribery Scandal Involving Customs Officers and Inquiries from EFCC and CCB

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Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper, PREMIUM TIMES, has written to President Bola Tinubu, asking him to order the prosecution of some officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) indicted for accepting bribes to the tune of N12 billion while sabotaging government policies.

In the letter dated 12 March, PREMIUM TIMES told Mr Tinubu that seven top officials of the NCS were indicted in an EFCC investigation unearthing how some Customs officers have received billions of naira from smugglers. Yet, the EFCC has failed to kickstart their prosecution months after they were detained and parts of the proceeds of bribes recovered.

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“This may appear to be an encouragement to the suspects and others with the opportunity and facility to continue taking bribes from smugglers,” parts of the letter signed by the newspaper’s Deputy Managing Editor, Adeyemi Adesomoju, read.

Seven Customs Officials indicted in N12 billion corruption scandal

This newspaper asked Mr Tinubu to pull the weight of his office to ensure appropriate, decisive actions are taken on the case. “We are requesting that you order the NCS to immediately take appropriate disciplinary actions against these officers and the EFCC to begin their prosecution without further delay,” the letter added.

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We have also written to the EFCC, NCS and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), asking them to begin the prosecution of the indicted persons.

However, none of them has responded to our letters, the same way they all ignored our enquiries when we published the initial report.

Customs Officials indicted in N12 billion corruption scandal

In February, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how seven NCS officials were indicted in an investigation by the anti-graft agency, EFCC into the proceeds of bribes from smugglers.

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The story revealed that the indicted NCS officials were arrested and detained between November and January. The EFCC investigation traced N12 billion suspected to be proceeds of bribes from smugglers to the seven officials. They have promptly refunded a total of N937 million before they were released, with the promise of refunding more.

Indicted customs officers refund parts of the proceeds

However, the EFCC has failed to effect their prosecution and the NCS has refused to punish them as it allowed them back to their duty posts.

Indicted Customs Officers

The officers indicted in the EFCC investigation, as reported by this newspaper include the NCS’ Area Controller Zone B Kaduna, Ibrahim Jalo; his personal assistant, Umar Tafarki; and the Comptroller Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone C, Port Harcourt, Kayode Kolade.

EFCC traced N9.5 billion proceeds of bribes from smugglers to Kayode Kolade

Other indicted officers are the Comptroller of Enforcement, Kaduna Zone, Nurudeen Musa; the officer in charge of Operation FOU Zone B, Kaduna, Hamisu Ibrahim; the officer in charge of patrol on the Agangaro/Jibia Road, Mohammed Rabiu and Madugu Saleh.

“Customs insiders and other sources familiar with the matter told this newspaper that the officers were found to own properties and businesses way above what their earnings as customs officers could cater for,” parts of the initial story reads.

Ibrahim Jalo was found with $31,200 and N500,000 in cash at the time of his arrest

PREMIUM TIMES calls on EFCC, CCB, Customs for action

This newspaper has also written to the chairperson of the EFCC, Olanipekun Olukoyede, whose men arrested these NCS officials but appeared reluctant to kickstart their prosecution.

In the 12 March letter to Mr Olukoyede, PREMIUM TIMES requested that the EFCC immediately charge the suspects to court with all offences relating to the established case of serious bribery.

“This will send a strong signal to, not just NCS officers, but to everyone in both the private and public sectors, that the Nigerian government, through your agency, takes bribery and other issues of economic sabotage seriously. We believe that this step is necessary, especially at a time the government is battling to save the economy,” the letter reads.

We also wrote to the chairperson of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Abdullahi Bello, asking the CCB to commence independent investigations into the likely breaches of the code of conduct for public officers.

The CCB has the mandate to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public accountability.

“Your agency, with its exclusive powers to investigate breaches of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, stipulated in the Nigerian constitution, occupies a unique place in the fight against public corruption,” parts of the letter read.

“We are, therefore, urging you to pull the weight of your office by activating these enormous constitutional powers and responsibilities to ensure grave cases of corruption with dire economic implications are not swept under the carpet.”

In another letter, we asked the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Bashir Adeniyi, why the service under his leadership has failed to take any disciplinary action against the indicted officials but has rather allowed them to remain in their posts.

“This may appear to be an encouragement to the suspects and others with the opportunity and facility to continue taking bribes from smugglers,” the letter, submitted on 13 March and signed by Mr Adesomoju, reads.

“Therefore, we are requesting that you immediately take appropriate disciplinary actions against these officers and hasten up their prosecution by the EFCC to send a strong signal to your entire workforce that the NCS, on your watch, would no longer condone acts of bribery or any other form of economic sabotage.”

Continued Silence

More than six weeks after we wrote to the Nigerian authorities asking them to prosecute the indicted officials, none of them has replied to us. We have also not been informed of the prosecution of any of these indicted officials.

This is similar to the silence from the authorities that followed our report in February. We had reached out to both the EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, and the NCS spokesperson, Aliyu Maiwada.

While Mr Oyewale promised to get back to our reporter at the time, he never did. Mr Maiwada, meanwhile, did not respond to our reporter’s call and detailed messages seeking response.

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Newslodgein partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe

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