Tinubu Sulks, Holds meetings
- Fear Grips Customs Officers
- Stakeholders Surprised
In a repeat of what the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha did in 1993, President Mohammed Buhari, last week, appointed a retired Military Colonel, Hammed Ibrahim Ali (retd) as the new Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). However, MMS Plus can authoritatively reveal why Buhari went for a non-customs officer.
It was a surprise to many maritime stakeholders and customs officers who have kept wondering the magic military the man will perform in tariff interpretation and administration.
As Col. Ali assumes duty on Tuesday September 2nd, 2015, at the Customs headquarters in Abuja, he has been mandated to instill discipline in Customs service with the instruction to sack all corrupt officers, evidently found to be corrupt, from the position of officers to rank and file.
Already, fear is palpable within the customs circle among the Deputy Comptroller-Generals (DCGs) and Assistant Comptroller-Generals (ACGs) over the uncertainty of their continued stay in service.
Meanwhile, MMS Plus gathered that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu who lost the battle to appoint his Kinsman as Comptroller General of Customs has gone sulky, and went ahead to call for a series of nocturnal meetings of Yoruba elders and caucus of All Progressives Congress (APC) at the weekend. The meetings were also aimed at reviewing the lopsided key appointments in favour of the North, last week.
On why Buhari chose Col. Ali, who was originally penciled down for the position of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and had been trained for the position, MMS Plus gathered that Buhari was inundated with requests for CG-ship from serving customs officers from North West, North East, South West, using the Emirs, Obas and interest groups, even international contacts as lobbyists.
Following this, he directed the Department of Security Service (DSS) to investigate the officers and some other ones whose names were played up in the process.
Unfortunately, from their security report it was discovered that a mere one star (Assistant Superintendent of Customs,ASC) has properties all over the places, even hotels. Consequently, it was gathered, Buhari concluded from their recommendations that all the DCGs and ACGs are not worthy of being a CGC because they are all corrupt.
To also put an end to ethnic quest, it was further gathered, Buhari needed a disciplinarian, who does not glut for money, but believes in fighting corruption and in one Nigeria.
Besides, the choice of Col. Ali was further influenced by the renewed jostle for the position of CGC by the serving customs officers most of whom were said to have contracted a factional leader of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), who claimed to have access to Buhari and his aides.
Through this jobber, the customs officers gave so much money to Buhari’s aides who in turn reported to their boss how much and how they were given money by a Lobbyist from some customs officers.
Col. Ali (retd.) replaced Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi, who retired voluntarily from service recently. Col. Ali, was born on January 15, 1955 and holds Bachelors and Masters degree both in Criminology. He was the Military Administrator of Kaduna State, Nigeria, between August 1996 and August 1998 during the military regime of late Gen. Abacha. He later became the Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a Northern lobbying group and later emerged as the Chief of Staff to Buhari during the presidential campaign.
As at press time, some members of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have condemned what some described as “importation” of a CG from outside to administer the affairs of customs and tariff in international trade. Although the associations, as bodies resolved to adopt “a siddon-look” attitude for now, on the sidelines individual members who spoke to MMS Plus said Col. Ali cannot do any magic in Customs without a technical knowledge of tariff. Some were even of the opinion that corruption will take a different dimension now as this has paved way for unscrupulous customs officers and agents to connive and do “bigger deals”.
In the same vein, some customs officers who spoke with MMS Plus were of the view that Col. Ali’s appointment would obstruct trade facilitation. Some cited the appointment of Brigadier-General Samuel Ango as Sole Admimistrator of Customs by the Late Gen. Abacha, saying he left customs more corrupt than he met it.
Ango was accused of running one man show in Customs after retiring 6 DCGs and 24 ACGs in 1994. Ango, who was removed from office on February 4th, 1998, was accused of running the customs service as an extension of his military duty, ignoring rules in customs.
Under Ango, professionalism was thrown to the winds in customs, customs men connived with importers and clearing agents to defraud the government of more than N10billion under import duty report schedule.
The nation’s customs service is viewed by many, both nationally and internationally as a cesspool of corruption. Its reputation has been marred by numerous corruption and fraud scandals across the years.
According to Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, more than the half of local households surveyed attested to paying bribes to Nigeria Customs service in 2009.