The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has reportedly budgeted N2 billion welfare packages for its retiring officers and N300 million as fuelling cost of grounded aircraft of the agency.
The Senate raised the alarm after the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC Edo North), presented a report on the N257 billion 2021 budget for the service.
Expressing shock at the amount budgeted, the Senate slammed its Committee on Customs for not properly carrying out its oversight functions on the agency.
Conveying the Senate’s warning to the 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.”
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.
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.
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 nonfunctional aircraft belonging to the NCS.
He said it’s even stranger that another N100 million was voted for fuelling the same aircraft. Na’Allah also queried the N180m voted for fumigation.
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.