Nigerian Customs Service

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is an independent agency under the supervisory oversight of the Nigerian Ministry of Finance, responsible for the collection of customs revenue and anti-smuggling efforts.


Today, the NCS is still run by the comptroller general, who oversees the work of five deputy comptroller generals in the following departments:

  • Corporate Support Services;
  • Tariff & Trade;
  • Enforcement, Investigation, and Inspection;
  • Modernization, Research and Economic Relations;
  • Excise, Industrial Incentives and Free Trade Zone;
  • Human Resource Development.[1]

The NCS board is chaired by the minister of finance, while the vice-chairman is Col. Hameed Ali, the service’s comptroller general who is not a career Customs staff, but was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari with the aim reforming and revamping the institution.


The service’s reputation has been marred by numerous corruption and fraud scandals across the years. According to Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, more than half of local households surveyed attested to paying bribes to NCS officers in 2009.[2]

To date, complex customs regulations and bureaucracy surrounding the import and export of goods has nurtured an environment in which bribes are commonly paid. Several companies are also believed to undervalue their goods upon importation to avoid penalties. Yet other companies, operating in the informal economy, resort to smuggling as a means of avoiding legal trade.

Notably, a number of foreign companies have been involved in fraud and corruption scandals in recent years:

  • Three subsidiaries of Vetco International – Vetco Gray Controls Inc, Vetco Gray Controls Ltd and Vetco Gray UK Ltd – pleaded guilty to violating anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when they admitted to making US$2.1 million worth of corrupt payments over a two-year period to officers in the NCS through Panalpina, a Swiss-based freight forwarding firm in Nigeria.[3]
  • At the same time as the subsidiaries were charged, another Vetco subsidiary – Aibel International Ltd – entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice for its involvement in the same scandal. This deferred prosecution agreement entailed co-operation with the Department of Justice, stricter controls and the retention of FCPA monitors. Subsequently, however, the company admitted to failing to comply with its obligations and paid a monetary fine.[4]
  • Oil services firm Transocean Ltd made corrupt payments to the value of US$90,000 to Nigerian customs officials between 2002 and 2007 to extend its importation status and receive false paperwork.[5]
  • Tidewater Inc., an oil service firm, paid US$1.6 million through Panalpina to Nigerian customs officials to clear vessels into Nigerian waters.[6]
  • Noble Energy authorised payments by its local subsidiary to obtain eight temporary permits. In November 2011, Noble, Transocean and Tidewater were three of the companies that settled allegations of involvement in a US$100 million bribery scheme in Nigeria, as part of the Panalpina settlements.[5]
  • Royal Dutch Shell entered into a U.S. plea deal in November 2010 over its contractor's involvement in bribing Nigerian customs officials. US authorities accused Shell’s subsidiary Shell Nigerian Exploration and Production Co Ltd. of bribing Nigerian customs officials US$3.5 million to quickly process needed equipment for its offshore Bonga field. A heavy fine was levied on Shell after Panalpina, which was also employed by Shell, agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes on behalf of its clients.[7]

Outside of FCPA litigation, there are several examples of everyday Nigerian businessmen being urged to pay bribes to customs officials in order to smooth the passage of their goods.[8][9] This has led some activists such as Valentine Achum to recommend far reaching reforms[10] that would place corruption at the back seat and seal up revenue leakages.


  1. ^ Nigeria Customs Service. "Organisation Structure". Nigeria Customs Service. 
  3. ^ U.S. Department of Justice (6 February). "Three Vetco International Ltd. Subsidiaries Plead Guilty to Foreign Bribery and Agree to Pay $26 Million in Criminal Fines". PR Newswire.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ European Anti-Bribery Blog (23 November 2008). "Aibel Group Limited pleads guilty in the US second time around". European Anti-Bribery Blog. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Samuel Rubenfeld (13 January 2011). "Nigeria Arrests 12 Oil Executives Over Alleged Bribery". Wall Street Journal. 
  6. ^ FCPA Blog (10 November 2011). "SEC Posts Cases Eligible For Whistleblower Rewards". FCPA Blog. 
  7. ^ Rowena Mason and Richard Blackden (4 November 2010). "Shell to pay $48m Nigerian bribe fine". Telegraph. 
  8. ^ Peoples Daily (4 November 2011). / "How corrupt officials skim government at the ports" Check |url= value (help). Peoples Daily. 
  10. ^ Valentine Achum

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