Why 240 Officers Were Fired From The Nigerian Customs Service By The Buhari-Idiagbon Regime In February 1984

Established in 1891 as by the British colonial administration to collect inland revenue in the Niger Coast Protectorate, the Nigeria Customs Service has confidently stamped itself into the consciousness of Nigerians as one of the most corrupt organizations in the world. Its reputation is so horrible that it is common to see Nigerians heaping curses on customs officers.

THE BATTLE IS NOT OVER YET: Idiagbon pins the WAI badge on Head of State Muhammadu Buhari while to the right is the kleptomaniac former boss of customs Dikko Abdullahi.

  The customs is corruption personified, from the highest echelon to the lowest rungs. In November 2016, a former comptroller-general of the service, Abdullahi Dikko, returned the sum of one billion naira to the Nigerian federal government. That was out of the total of N40 billion that was diverted under his watch. Mr. Dikko fled Nigeria after he voluntarily resigned and he is still in hiding as I am writing this. However, the stinking garments of the custom did not come into existence today. Something happened far back in February 1984 and that is what I am talking about today.

1984 Nigeria was ruled by the iron fists of the Federal Military Government (FMG) with the Supreme Military Council headed by two major-generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon being the highest decision-making body. And few months after Buhari came to power in December 1983, one of the first things he decided to do was to sanitize the customs. At that time, the Nigerian Customs (called the Customs and Excise Department) was purged all of a sudden with 240 officers getting the axe. They were made up of 65 senior officers and 175 junior members of staff. This mass sack was approved by the Supreme Military Council (SMC).

  They were all fired because they were said to have committed serious cases of misconduct such as aiding and abetting smuggling, illegal machining of bills of entries outside customs lounge room, forgery and falsification of documents with the view to defrauding the government of its revenue. Others are illegal patrols and mounting of illegal road blocks, impersonation, burglary and stealing of seized goods from government warehouses as well as illegal release of various seized items.

   Apart from these crimes, some of the others were dismissed because they got into the customs service using forged certificates. The federal minister of finance Dr. O. O. Soleye released a statement in which he stated that the house clearing in the department of Customs and Excise was going to be a continuous exercise so as to identify and flush out bad eggs. He also said officers in the department who display impressive levels of loyalty, dedication and devotion to service have absolutely nothing to fear. He also added that those who excel in the discharge of their duties were going to be properly rewarded. But today, nothing has changed. The customs remains very corrupt but the government seems to be making some attempts to clean it. The success of such purging exercise remains debatable.  




  1. Nigerian Customs Service
  2. 240 Customs Officers Fired, The Nigerian Observer, February 1, 1984, Volume XVI, Number 4,660.
  3. Nigerian Customs Service Official Website 
  4. EFCC Confirms Ex-Customs Boss Returned N1 Billion To Government

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