Fact Check

Is it true Nigeria’s Customs Service has not recruited in the past 17 years?

ClaimA report from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), picked by some media outlets,  claims the Controller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said the service has not recruited in the last 17years.

The Nigerian Customs Service has denied not recruiting in the last 17 years, noting the recruitment gap that existed was long before Hameed Ali’s regime which is just six years old.

Full Text

A news report titled “We can’t effectively police the borders with 15,000 officers” was Tweeted by The Cable, an online newspaper, with the caption that Hameed Ali, the Controller-General (CG) of Customs, said the service has not recruited in the past 17 years.

On recruitment into the NCS, the CG said the service had not recruited in the past 17 years, adding that recruitment into the service was the prerogative of the president.”

Screenshot of Twitter post by the Cable

The report originated from the News Agency of Nigeria, a news wire.


Dubawa followed the link to the full story on Cable’s website to get more details. The report which noted this was an agency report from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) was published on March 5, 2021. 

According to the NAN report, the CG made this claim at the presentation of the service’s 2021 budget, before the house committee on customs service, while noting the need for NCS to recruit officers as there is a gap in terms of officers currently in the service.

Screenshot of the Cable’s report

Dubawa conducted a keyword search which led to another report by the Guardian published on March 4, 2021, which quoted the CG as saying Nigeria’s border is extensive and porous. The story also has the claim that the service has not recruited in the past 17 years.

Dubawa visited the NCS website to find more information but did not get any information on recruitment. However, Dubawa got the email address of the information unit of the service ([email protected]) which we emailed to inquire about the claim but no response has been received so far. 

Dubawa also called the contact number available on the website and was asked to contact the Information Unit.

Dubawa went ahead to speak with the National Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, who said this claim is not true. Acknowledging there was a time the service had a recruitment gap, Mr Attah noted this was before Mr Ali’s regime as CG.

The new controller general came on board in 2015 which means he has just spent  6 years in office which is far less than the number of years the report claimed recruitment has not been attempted in the service.

“I am particularly surprised that this question is coming at a time we just rounded up our recruitment screening exercise across the country. It was held in Abuja, Kano, Owerri, Lagos and Bauchi. 

Yes, there was time recruitment was not done but that was long, even before his regime anyway so that gap is identified and that is what efforts are on to address them.” 

Excerpt of NCS PRO’s comment.

Also, in 2019, the NCS in a statement by the Secretary, Nigerian Customs Board, announced it was set to recruit 3,200 personnel to fill positions in the agency.

In 2021, reports by MyJobMag, RecruitmentGate, and Careersng, show an ongoing recruitment exercise by the service across the North West, North East, North Central, South East, South West and South-South.

The list for 2021 recruitment can be found here

Screenshot of Nigeria Customs shortlist.

Although the PRO did not give specific dates of this recruitment which he said took place last week, the reports above show this was between March 1 to March 10, 2021.

Speaking on the issues of shortage of officials which the CG said makes it hard to police the border appropriately, the PRO said it is not just the need for manpower but the need for technology.

“The issue of policing the borders goes beyond the number of persons. Yes, manpower is an issue but working tools and as you these days you need more than human beings to police the border. Technology is invoked now in policing the international border. What 100 people can do, 5 or 10 people can do with very effective technology. Yes we understand that we need more manpower no doubt about that, we also need technology and that is what the government has addressed, the government just approved E-Customs which is end-end automation of the customs processes and procedures. Meaning that going forward, there will be non-intrusive equipment installed at all our entry points to help customs police the borders better.”

Excerpt of NCS PRO’s commeThat 

When asked what the current staff strength of the service was, he said it was around 15,000 but this will change after this recruitment.

“Currently we are in the region of 15,000 plus. But don’t forget recruitment is going on now so, in the next one month, the figure I have given you will not be correct”.

Excerpt of NCS PRO’s comment.


The Nigerian Customs Service has denied not recruiting in the last 17 years, noting the recruitment gap that existed was long before Hameed Ali’s regime which is just six years old.

News reports also show recruitment in 2019 and 2021 which makes the claim misleading.

EDITOR’s NOTE: This fact-check has been updated to reflect the original source as NAN and not TheCable.

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