The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, said the organisation would consider reopening the customs posts at Gamboru Ngala and Banki to fight arms influx and curtail insurgency.
Ali said this at the sideline of his courtesy visit to defence formations, including the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Nigerian Air Force and Nigeria Police on Thursday in Abuja.
The comptroller-general said that for customs to achieve its target, it needed the support of the military, police and intelligent agencies.
Ali said that smuggling of small arms and ammunition had to be prevented in view of the current insurgency in the country.
He said that the essence of the visit was to further strengthen synergy between the police, intelligent agencies, service chiefs and customs, to have a safer country and a viable economy.
Ali said that customs would consider reopening the border posts due to the request by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
“Why not, we will consider the post. We are here to know what their (military) challenges are, what they want us to do as much as we want them to do certain things for us.
“If the post will provide the enabling environment for people to operate, we will consider that.
“Small arms importation or smuggling is endemic; it is a problem to all of us and the military. We are doing everything to make sure we stop this thing.
“Our biggest problem is insurgence and this thing has gone beyond small arms; now people import big arms, machine guns, rocket propel grenade launchers through the ports and water side.
“So we have responsibility to stop this people from coming in; if we can reduce the number of arms that gets into the country, we can assure Nigerians that there will be safety by the security,’’ Ali said.
The customs boss called for the cooperation of the service chiefs to curb the influx of small fire arms and explosives across the over 4,000 kilometres borders in the country.
Ali requested for training of customs officers on aircraft surveillance piloting, security intelligence, maritime logistics and army cooperation from the service.
Buratai had requested for the reopening of the border posts at Gamboru Ngala and Banki to clear the activities of insurgence.
Buratai urged Ali to return customs post to other places that had been cleared of insurgents in Borno, to boost soldiers’ morale and support the fight.
“We will work together to ensure this smuggling is curbed and eliminated in the long run.
“The customs is the gateway to the Nigerian economy and the gateway to Nigeria because their role around the border is crucial.
“Let me request for the return of our customs border posts around some of these areas which have been captured from insurgents, especially Gamboru-Ngala and Banki.
“Though economic activities have not fully returned to those areas, our troops are there and we will appreciate it if the customs returns to those areas so that you will also support our fight against insurgency.
“The fight against insurgency is not strictly for the Nigerian military alone; it is for all Nigerians.
“The earlier we establish this fact, the better for all of us. Our troops on the field have been doing well; they require the continued support of all Nigerians both morally and otherwise,” Buratai said.
Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, the Chief of Air Staff, said that customs should enlist its men into the international air training school in Enugu.
Abubakar said its officers were being trained in Portugal to perfect the building of local operational Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) and make them available for customs and other paramilitaries.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, commended custom’s anti-corruption posture, saying , “I share in your vision of sanitising the system to enhance the nation’s economic survival.”
Ibas said that the Navy would assist in training customs’ marine command officers to curb imports diversion in the over 3,000 creeks and estuaries in the nation. (NAN)