As part of poverty eradication efforts, governments world over are now deploying various strategies and institutions to arrest social vices and improve the living standards of their citizens by ensuring economic growth.
One of the institutions that have been identified around the world as relevant to poverty eradication through its dual functions as security agent and revenue collector is the Customs Service.
Customs Service generally support their countries to among other things, combat illegal commercial activities and trade in illicit goods, infraction on intellectual property rights and illegal international trade in endangered species.
They also fight against illegal trade in arms and ammunitions, money laundering, trafficking of illicit drugs, illegal trading of cultural artefacts, importation of pornographic, toxic, hazardous and such dangerous materials or substances.
While presenting a paper entitled â€œIntegrity as Panacea to Poverty Shackles in Nigeria: the role of the Nigerian Customs Service,â€ at the recent Comptroller-Generalâ€™s Annual Conference, in Katsina State, Dr Ibrahim Yusuf El-ladan of the Department of Geography, Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua University, Katsina, maintained that â€œlooking at these roles, it would not be out of place in asserting that the Customs, as an institution is key to solving global myriads of social crises, turning around the entire global economy and thus, disentangling the human race from the shackles of poverty.â€
He said the NCS which came into being in 1891 and saddled with the responsibility of revenue collection and accounting for the revenue collected must possess high level integrity to deliver this responsibility which will go a long way in eradicating poverty.
With the Service today having a wider range of responsibilities which includes implementation of government fiscal measures, generation of statistical data for planning purposes, trade facilitation, implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements entered into by government, there is even the greater need for the possession of high level integrity.
According to El-Ladan, out of the four strategies of economic liberalisation, investments in capital and technology, aids and transparent institutions that have been recognised as imperative in alleviating poverty, the Nigerian Customs Service has direct significant roles to play in at least three of them which are economic liberalisation, investment in capital and technology and transparent institution.
He noted that extending property rights to the poor was one of the most important poverty reduction strategies a nation could adopt. Securing property rights to land, the largest asset for most societies, he said, is vital to their economic freedom.
He also noted that for the poor, overwhelming importance is placed on having a safe place to save money, much more so than receiving loans and since trade liberalisation increases total surplus of trading nations and foreign investments while export industries help fuel the economic expansion of fast growing nations, the NCS has a role to play since its functions include implementation of government fiscal measures, generation of statistical data for planning purposes, trade facilitation and implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements entered into by government.
On investments in capital and technology, El-ladan noted that the Service has a role to support the nation in combating illegal commercial activities and trade in illicit goods as well as illegal international trade in endangered species. It also has the responsibility of combating illegal trade in arms and ammunition, money laundering, trafficking of illicit drugs, illegal trading of cultural artefacts, importation of toxic and hazardous substances to ensure safe and robust investments in human and physical capitals as well as in relevant technology.
For example, he noted that cell phone technology today brings the market to the poor and rural population, adding that with necessary information, remote farmers can produce specific crops to sell to buyers that bring the best price.
Furthermore, El-ladan in his paper, noted that the Service can help government achieve transparency in government institutions through its function of implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements entered into by government as well as collaborative functions with other agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Police, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
He said that these collaborative efforts can help keep checks on banks and similar financial institutions where funds from money laundering and tax evasion as well as funds linked to terrorism are stashed.
This is against the background that where there is lack of transparency, sometimes, funds from aids and natural resources are often diverted into private hands and sent to banks overseas as a result of graft.
El-ladan, however, noted that efforts to deliver on these enormous challenges may have informed why the present Comptroller-General of the Service, AbdullahiDikko and his team are on the alert and revolutionising the Service with modern day technologies with a view to delivering on its mandate as they cannot be delivered without discipline and integrity among its officers and men.
While calling on citizens and other institutions to give the NCS all necessary support to achieve higher feats than they have so far achieved, El-ladan noted that authentic records have shown that the Nigerian Customs Service of today is more than capable of delivering its statutory mandate, adding that these records have revealed that the strengths of the Service are comparable to those of any of its contemporaries.
Key among the Services strengths according to him, is a crop of well trained professionals, an efficient and effective risk management system, exchange of information and intelligence as well as collaborations with the world Customs Organisation (WCO) and the adoption of international best practices.