The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has tasked journalists on the need for balanced and fair reportage of its activities in the interest of national security.
Comptroller Mustapha Sarkin-Kebbi , Commandant, Customs Training College, Ikeja, made the call at a seminar organised by the NCS for customs correspondents in Lagos State.
The seminar had as its theme: “ Responsible Report of Customs Operations: Imperative for National Security and Economy’’.
According to Sarkin-Kebbi, the Customs is a highly technical service and if one is not abreast of a situation at a particular time, the person will report the issue wrongly and can worsen the situation.
“For example and unfortunately, more than 50 per cent of imports are cleared with a lot of irregularities, under declaration and false declaration and when such infraction are discovered, those goods are seized.
“The point here is that the reporter may not know of the bridge in import procedures and the next thing is to write that customs are harassing people, creating problems and not facilitating trade.
“When such happens, it is the duty of the reporter to get to the root of the case and do an appropriate reportage,” he said.
Sarkin-Kebbi pointed out that the seminar came at an appropriate time considering the situation in the country.
He added that with the caliber of highly knowledgeable resource persons, he believed that the workshop would achieve its aim.
Also, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, National Public Relations Officer, NCS, noted that if one was desirous of a proper country, everyone must be ready to embark on a journey of self sacrifice.
According to him, over the years, implementation of the NCS functions has continued to attract mixed reactions both positive and negative and so, the need to sensitise the public on some critical issues.
“NCS needs to form string of partnership with people and to achieve this, the media becomes critical for public sensitisation.
“Customs is making conscious effort to cultivate and nurture that relationship. This is in such a way that the media are well informed of customs operations,” he said.
Also Mr Adeleye Ajayi, Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalist, Lagos, while speaking on “Media Relations Best Practice’’, urged public relations of organisations to make themselves accessible to the media so that the right information would be disseminated.
Also, Deputy Commandant, Anthony Ayalogu, in his paper presentation, “African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Understanding Free Trade and the Challenges of Regulation’’ noted that simplifying formal import and export process would ensure the success of AfCFTA.
“Simplifying import/export process will make people who are in the informal trade to come in and an account of their trade taken in’’.
He listed other AfCFTA strategies for success to include introduction of effective penalty for infractions, capacity building, centralisation of external trade agreements and others.
The two-day seminar is aimed at exposing journalists especially maritime reporters to customs activities and proffer a platform and bonding for NCS and media to network.