AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HON. LEKE JOSEPH ABEJIDE THE NEW CHAIRMAN HOUSE COMMITTEE ON CUSTOMS & EXCISE DUTY

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HON. LEKE JOSEPH ABEJIDE THE NEW CHAIRMAN HOUSE COMMITTEE ON CUSTOMS & EXCISE DUTY

Can We Know You, Sir?

My name’s Hon. Leke Joseph Abejide, Member Representing the good people of Yagba East, Yagba West and Mopa Amuro Federal Constituency, I’m from Kogi State.

By the grace of Almighty God and the pronouncement from Mr Speaker today, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, I’m the New Chairman of the House Committee on Customs and Excise.

Now That You are the new Chairman What Are We Expecting To See From You And Your New Office?

Thank you for your question, even when the former chairman was alive I’ve been working assiduously with him from behind as the Deputy then. Even from the House most of the referrer are sent to me by the then Chairman, we’ve been doing the work together and we had each other’s back, so I attend to things accordingly.

Now that I’m in charge fully the speed will be better than before and by God’s grace, there will be a new system. What I mean by the system is the issue of oversight function that we are supposed to be doing minimally like twice a year which we’ve not been doing as stipulated will now take an effective phase.

I will also design a template with the help of the clerk, we will pass it across and also carry other members of the committee along as required.

May God rest the soul of Hon. Kila right from inception I’ve been assisting him due to his age, he discovered my openness and the way I worked with him. Even when he’s not aware of some moves, I will quickly alert him. These gave me the leverage to know more about something’s I don’t know and he bestowed on me the free hand to perform and also learn.

Now that I’m in charge, the operation will be better than before, to make the decisions that will serve the interest of Nigerians to promote Nigeria Custom Service.

You Know The Issues Of Insecurity Is On The Front Burner In The Country, How Best Do You Think Nigerians Can Be Protected Since Customs Play A Vital Role, We See Situations Where Ammunitions Are Being Imported Into The Country And How Our Borders Are Porous. What Do You Think You Can Do As A Federal Lawmaker, We Know Your Responsibility Is To Make Laws But Then You Have Other Roles To Play What Do You Think The House Committee On Custom Can Do To Salvage The Situation That We Can See These Things Reduced To The Minimum?

Yeah, Customs has a major role to play because most of these ammunitions are either, coming through the port or land borders. The customs officers are to mount the Ports and the Borders, the areas I know I will work with customs to eradicate the issues of infiltration of ammunitions into the country is the usage of scanners. During our last oversight, all the commands we visited, none of them has a scanner. All the scanners are in the moribund stage.

If ammunitions are hidden in
containers, it is impossible to get them by just physical examination. But if there are scanners it will show wherever they are being hidden. We need scanners at the Ports.

We invited the Comptroller General of customs to our committee meeting last two weeks and he told us the CBN has procured four scanners though they are yet to be installed this is a step in the right direction.

We are also suggesting the usage of the drone to survey and monitor the border stations where an officer can’t work effectively, the drone will work perfectly and show any activities going on.

Although we can not advise customs to manage scanners, this is what brought us to this stage that we are in today, initially, the scanners were procured by the service providers, with SGS and global scans they were managing it well, they were to operate and transfer.

Then, the customs felt they were of age and can manage the scanners but unfortunately we discovered that there were three levels in the management of the scanners and they only understood one of the levels, other levels were not being understood, also political interest came into play and the management was given to another group who doesn’t understand the technical know-how. Sincerely, we don’t want all these to come into play again.

Therefore we suggested that there should be experts who can work with customs. So that they can achieve a lot and customs will perform it’s duties optimally.

A lot of things are coming through the Borders especially ammunition and through the Ports

As regards personnel, we went around the commands and the FCT command has about 126 Senior officers and 60 Junior officers, they are short of personnel. Even if Customs is recruiting 10,000 personnel in a year is not too much because we have a good number of borders that we can put them.

We need to do the work else, we will only be lamenting.

You Have Been A Member of This Committee For a While And You Speak With Confidence But Can You Tell Us Some Of The Challenges You Faced Asides From Those You’ve Mentioned, What Are The Challenges You Faced So Far In Trying To Do Your Job As A Legislator?

Well, the committee is facing a lot as regards funding, the oversight we had was funded my humble self and I couldn’t get a refund from the management. I spearheaded and funded it, we were told to wait till the National Assembly will be able to pay it back.

That was why we were able to scrutinize the budget if we had not embarked on the oversight we wouldn’t k what the personnel are facing and we won’t know they are short of personnel, they are also short of accommodation, they don’t have the equipment to work with as well. Asides from all of these I think Customs are good to go.

The issues of funding is a general issue in the National Assembly, not just the committee alone as addressed by the spokesperson of the National Assembly.

I believe when the issues of funding are solved we will carry out our duties with all diligence.

Compiled By:

Abraham Ibukun Eunice.
S. A Media and Publicity
Hon. Leke Abejide, MHR.
Chairman House Committee on Customs & Excise.

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