There is a seething corruption in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) led by Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) as Comptroller General (CG). In this mystery interview, our guest reveals a lot in this session. Excerpt:
Customs is a highly technical government parastatal, which the Comptroller General(CG),Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) does not know anything about. And it is telling on Customs now. We have not had it this bad. If you put Buhari’s head in a container, you can carry it as long as you settle officers. Hameed has been singlehandedly awarding contracts in Customs for the past three and half years. There is no Customs board. Hameed Ali did not report to the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and still doesn’t report to the current Minister.
The Minister of Finance is supposed to be the Chairman of Customs board, the Ministry of Finance is supposed to have a supervisory role over the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) but Hameed never reports to the Minister. Hameed singlehandedly conducts promotion examinations and promotes officers. Who does he award contracts to? Who are the beneficiaries?
What they do in the name of due process is to list three companies and single-out the person in the choice company and use the other two non-existing companies to quote for the job and present them as competitive bid. Have you ever seen a Customs tender in any newspaper since Hameed Ali assumed office?
Hameed sits on multi-billion naira Customs vote and accounts to no one. Customs receives 7 percent of their total collected revenue as their vote, it means they have more money as their vote now with increased revenue generation over the years. It means that the Customs budget for three and half years now has been singlehandedly managed by Hammed. We are talking about over N100billion here. Which corruption is more than this? Who does he report to? Who are the beneficiaries of these contracts he awards? How can one man sit and conduct promotion examinations and promote officers and the exercise will be transparent? It is the Customs board that ratifies the senior officers promotion from one star, Assistant Superintendent of Customs to the Comptroller cadre, however, it is one man that presides over this.
The Customs management has the authority to promote people from Customs Assistant to Inspector cadre but once it is above the Inspector cadre, it is the responsibility of the Customs board to conduct examinations and approve promotions on these ranks. Hameed has never been answerable to the Ministry of Finance because he has direct access to President Muhammadu Buhari and so whatever he wants he gets it from Buhari because he has a mandate to build funds to execute 2019 elections.
The Strike Force I talked about, Hammed brought a serving Army Colonel to Customs with him as his Principal Staff Officer (PSO). Now, the man whose name is Buhari has been promoted to a Brigadier General. We still don’t know what he did to earn that promotion. Is it by setting up task force in Customs with which they extort money for Customs? The PSO constituted the Strike Force, every single person on this mission was nominated by him. Talking about corruption, is nepotism not corruption?
All Customs FOUs and border stations in Nigeria are being headed by officers from a particular part of the country. At the seaports and airports, all are from one region and later somebody will say there is proliferation of arms. If you have your people everywhere and there is proliferation of arms, it means there is a compromise. It is either that they are not competent or there is compromise.
On importation of foreign rice that they said they have stopped, the Nigerian market is still flooded with foreign rice. Rice is now being imported through containers via the seaports, no longer the borders. They declare them as fishing nets and building materials and settle the Strike Force and the FOUs. People import one hundred containers of rice at once and declare them as fishing nets and mosquito nets. That is why foreign rice is still all over the market, irrespective of Lai Mohammed’s narratives. Who are the people manning our borders and seaports?
All the Customs Area Controllers (CACs), the returns they make to the CG is through Buhari, the PSO. They have perfected the system of receiving that money so that at the end of the day it is difficult to trace it to them. So, the question remains: Has Hameed actually reformed Customs? The simple answer is no! How can you fight corruption, when you will transfer people from one station to another without providing transport fare them, no accommodation, meanwhile the law says you have to provide the logistics. You have to pay 28 days accommodation bill, pending when the person gets accommodation. Nobody gives them anything. Hameed will call people to Abuja to come and write promotion examinations, without provision for transportation, feeding and accommodation as stated by law. Yet, he claims to be fighting corruption.
The man at the helm of the affairs claims he knows something but he doesn’t know anything about the Service. So, the officers capitalize on his ignorance to do whatever they want to do. A section of Nigeria is occupying all the sensitive positions in Customs and we keep talking about smuggling, arms and rice importation, among other illicit practices at the Customs ports.
If you go to Sokoto, there is a border called Illela border, it is border town between Republic of Niger and Nigeria. The goods coming into Nigeria from that border is more than the import that come to Nigeria through the Tin Can Island Port. What shippers do is to clear goods from Benin Republic and take it far North enter Nigeria via Sokoto. Nobody arrests them! These are the bulk of the goods feeding the North. It keeps the economy of the North going, thereby sabotaging the general economy of the country. It is only once in a while the Customs authorities seize one trailer load of items and make noise about it. How many cars have they arrested on those borders in the North in the last four years?
Hameed has been singlehandedly distributing seized items to the so-called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). He does not disclose the quantity of goods he distributes. Is it only in a section of the country that we have IDPs? Hameed does not tell us the quantity of seized items he gives out to Emirs, which is not bad but is not transparent. We know all these, yet he talks about corruption!