Senate raises alarm alarm as Customs budgets N2bn welfare packages for retiring officers

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The Senate Wednesday slammed its Committee on Customs for not properly carrying out its oversight functions on the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). 

This came as the red chamber expressed shock at the sum of N2 billion welfare packages for retired officers and another N300 million as fuelling cost of grounded aircraft of the agency.

Senate’s angst came when the Chairman, Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC Edo North), presented a report on the N257 billion 2021 budget for the NCS.

Conveying the Senate’s warning to Alimikhena-led committee, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said: “Chairman, I think you need to upscale your oversight on the Customs because these narratives that they will keep money they will not do budget implementation is as a result of insufficient oversight.

  “So we need to know this kind of things in good time, that you report back to the Senate on what is happening and you also advise them on what is appropriate and legal as far as the implementation of the budget is concerned. We are not supposed to be hearing this now, so increase your oversight,” Lawan said.

 Further angered by an attempt by the committee’s vice chairman, Senator Francis Fadaunsi (PDP Osun East) to commend the committee, Lawan quickly ordered him to take his seat. 

Bogus, illegal votes  

During the consideration of the budget report, the lawmakers took turns to point out what they called bogus and illegal votes in the proposed budget for the NCS.

Taking the first shot, Senator Sam Egwu (PDP, Ebonyi North) objected to the N2 billion vote for welfare packages for retiring NCS officers in addition to their normal and legal retirement benefits. 

“This N2 billion earmarked for welfare packages for retiring Custom Officers aside their normal retirement benefits is bogus and I wonder why the committee approved it for passage by the Senate,” he said.

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Also picking holes on one of the budgetary proposals, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), expressed shock that the sum of N200 million could be voted for a non functional air craft belonging to the NCS. 

He said it’s even stranger that another N100 million was voted for fuelling the same aircraft. 

“Why earmarking N200million for a non – functional aircraft aside the additional N100 million, budgeted for its fuelling?

“I think the committee ought to have thoroughly scrutinized all these bogus projections at the level of interface with the leadership of NCS during budget defence session it had with them,” he said.

 He also queried the N180m voted for fumigation, querying “what are you fumigating?”

When given the opportunity to respond to the issues raised, Alimikhena explained that the N2 billion was not restricted to officers but all the ranks of the NCS.

However, the Senate said it approved the NCS 2021 budget on the condition that its committee would improve on its oversight. 

The NCS Revenue target was increased from N1, 465,345,719,428.00 trillion to

 N1, 678,715,061,014.00 trillion.

In the budget, the NCS put personnel cost at  N99,719,722,681.71, overhead cost at  N19,530,769,000.00  and capital cost N137,933,180,013.00.

Other items expenditure approved for the NCS which attracted criticisms from the lawmakers, were  N15.9 billion for motor vehicles, N3.278billion for hazard allowance, N1.45billion for maintenance services, N5.8billion for boats, N2billion for uniform store, N500million for legal services, N465million for other services, 200million for teaching, investigation and book allowance, N200million for maintenance of aircraft and N100 million for sporting activities.

 Others were N90 million for refreshment and meals, N30 million for honorarium and sitting allowance, N30 million for research, N27 million for corps members’ allowance and N5million for newspapers, among others.

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