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N12bn bribery scandal: Customs high command jittery as EFCC quizzes more top officers

EFCC

…CSOs insist on prosecution of indicted personnel

By Eunice Akaukwu

Palpable anxiety is wafting amongst the top echelon of Nigeria Customs Service, following the recent multibillion naira bribery scandal currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Saturday Times gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, are preparing to prosecute 13 senior officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), allegedly involved in the N12 billion bribery and corruption scandal even as CSOs, are insisting that the matter must not be swept under the carpet.

It was learnt that the EFCC had already arrested and probed seven of the 33 other officers of the service over the alleged scandal.

Pressures are however being mounted by some Nigerian government officials to cover up the multi-billion naira bribery allegations.

It was gathered that about 40 NCS personnel, in the service’s highest position were indicted in the investigation into the proceeds of bribes paid to customs officials by smugglers importing and exporting contraband goods through the Nigerian borders.

According to reports, about seven of those officials were detained by the EFCC in December, last year.

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EFCC sources claimed that some of the indicted NCS officers benefitted from the proceeds of bribes totaling over N12 billion which were allegedly traced to them.

So far, none of them has been prosecuted due to continued investigations into the matter.

According to sources, NCS top shots are begging for the matter to be rested instead of prosecuting them since the concerned officers have been returning their loot to the Federal Government through the EFCC.

Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency haS granted them an administrative bail while their passports have been seized pending the determination of the case.

According to some officers who are not happy with the return of the indicted officers to their duty posts, they would do everything possible to make sure that the officers are prosecuted.

It was learnt that the officers were facilitating the movement of contraband items across Nigerian borders.

EFCC investigation revealed that the indicted officers were found to own properties and businesses, which are higher than their projected incomes.

It was gathered that some of these officials amassed the largest tranche of these bribes from smugglers last year after the directive to close the Nigeria-Niger border by the Nigerian government as part of ECOWAS sanctions against the military junta that deposed Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum.

According to reports, some of the customs officials allegedly collected bribes from smugglers to ferry their contrabands into and outside Nigeria, using the Nigerian borders with Niger Republic.

Most of the indicted officers were said to have served in Zone B, while one officer worked in the NCS’ Area Controller Zone B Kaduna, Ibrahim Jalo, was allegedly found with $31,200 and N500,000 in cash

Reports say Mr Jalo only assumed duty as the Area Controller Zone B in January last year, where he was said to have quickly made 130 record seizures within eight weeks of assuming the position.

The EFCC was alleged to have traced suspected proceeds of bribes from smugglers totalling N1.1 billion to him.

According to the reports, the officer had refunded N250 million, with a promise to refund the balance.

About N126 million was traced to Mr Jalo’s personal assistant, Umar Tafarki by the EFCC while he refunded N12 million.

One Kayode Kolade, the Comptroller Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone C, Port Harcourt was said to have been quizzed when the EFCC, traced N9.5 billion, suspected to be bribes from smugglers.

All the scandal took place between 2015 and 2023.

The EFCC detained Mr Kolade for three days in December, and he had refunded N50 million and committed to refund N800 million within a short period.

Also indicted was Nurudeen Musa, a Comptroller of Enforcement, Kaduna Zone. It was gathered that the EFCC traced N950 million to him and recovered N583 million from him after he spent days in detention, and also assured the commission to refund the rest.

An operative of the EFCC revealed that one Mr Musa, formerly of Area Comptroller, Katsina Area command, was arrested and investigated. The anti-graft agency, found lots of assets including two filling stations and large trucks, all of which investigators suspect were acquired with illicit funds.

According to reports, one Hamisu Ibrahim, the officer in charge of Operation FOU Zone B, Kaduna, was suspected to have accumulated N120 million in bribes from smugglers between 2019 and 2023 and by January, he was alleged to have refunded N13 million and promised to refund the rest.

Also, one Madugu Saleh and Mohammed Rabiu were suspected to have received N85 million and N84 million, respectively from smugglers. While Mr Saleh allegedly refunded N13.5 million and promised to refund the rest, Mr Rabiu, the officer in charge of patrol on the Agangaro/Jibia Road, refunded N15 million to the anti-graft agency.

According to the EFCC investigation, the arrests and refunds were made between November last year and January.

Saturday Times investigation showed that the EFCC is preparing to lodge a case in high court any moment from now after as it rounds off its investigations on the case.

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