Buhari Retired ACG Bashir For Raiding Presidential Warehouse

Buhari Retired ACG Bashir For Raiding Presidential Warehouse
Bashir Abubakar

·   Ghastly set-up, El-Rufai, Kyari wanted Bashir as next CG

·   Fleet Implementation Committee is moribund – Ogbeifun

By Kenneth Jukpor

The presidency directed the retirement of highly celebrated Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG) Bashir Abubakar, after the ACG’s team raided President Muhammadu Buhari’s warehouse in Daura searching for imported rice.

Top officers in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) are perplexed with the development described as punitive retirement, as ACG Bashir didn’t directly order the raid even though he spearheaded the team as the Coordinator of Customs Zone ‘B’.

ACG Bashir, a former Secretary to the Customs Board, was celebrated less than two years ago for rejecting $412,000 bribe from tramadol drug traffickers in Lagos, is also believed to have been framed by some highly placed Customs superiors following rumours that he was primed to become the Comptroller-General of Customs.

Bashir’s candidacy as next CG was being sponsored by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufia and former Chief of Staff, Late Abba Kyari, as they were grooming him to succeed Col. Hammed Ali (Rtd.) with plans already initiated to get Ali another portfolio.

Noting that border drill cases aren’t exclusively Customs duties because they are inter-agency driven, a top Customs official told MMS Plus that the media reports in the penultimate week which stated that Bashir’s team raided the warehouse of a friend of the President was half-truth.

“The truth is that Bashir’s team actually raided the warehouse of Mr. President. If you situate it within the general laws of the country and Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), the President has absolute immunity. Even the ambassador of another country in Nigeria, you can’t raid his house. We are talking about the President of the country and he is the only one who imports duty free. That is what happened,” the source said.

MMS Plus findings revealed that Bashir didn’t directly order the raid and the team which raided didn’t realize the warehouse belonged to President Buhari.

However, Buhari subsequently directed the Office of the National Security Adviser to carry out an investigation with the outcome being the recommendation of the dismissal of ACG Bashir for not taking appropriate action to prevent such raiding.

“In this matter the complainant is Mr. President. How bad can it get for an officer? Those of us, who are senior officers in Customs that are aware of this case, say it in low tunes that the case of ACG Bashir is really unfortunate. We all pray that we never fall victim to such circumstances. This officer had a blossoming career but he has been caught up in issues without an escape route even in the law,” our source said.

Although Section 308 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution outlines that immunity conferred on the President as no civil or criminal proceedings should be instituted against him while in office, there are no clear laws that prevent inspection of presidential cargoes or warehouses.

This immunity, however, is accorded to the president, vice-president, governors and deputy governors only for the period while they are in office.

Industry observers have raised concerns on why Bashir’s vendetta against corruption would be celebrated in Lagos, but cost him his job against the presidency when he didn’t personally carry out the raiding and his team was alleged to have been oblivious that the warehouse was for Buhari.

In another development, despite the well published benefits of a national fleet and the zeal to attain this by the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the Fleet Implementation Committee instituted by the Minister has dumped plans to float a national carrier.

A member of the Fleet Implementation Committee and Chief Executive Officer, Starz Group, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun revealed this during an exclusive chat with MMS Plus newspaper last week, even as he posited that lack of political will was the major inhibiting factor.

Ogbeifun stressed that Nigeria was doing itself a great disservice to be operating as a maritime nation in the global shipping industry without a national carrier.

His words: “I can honestly tell you that the committee is moribund. As a member, I don’t think I have been involved in any discussion for over a year. However, inquiries on the activities of the Fleet Implementation Committee should be directed to the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello. He is the chairman of that committee and also a good friend of mine.”

“No nation that has the opportunity of coastal assets and trade for the global market, should allow the advantage of a national fleet go by. I believe that it is only a matter of time before someone sees this as a top priority for the nation and achieves it. However, this may not happen in our generation. National fleet is too important to the shipping sector of the nation’s economy to be abandoned. My impression is that the political will to get this done has been missing,” he added.

Meanwhile, other shipping experts also posit that the COVID-19 pandemic should reemphasize the need for Nigeria to have a national fleet.

The Managing Director, Sea Transport Limited, Mr. Aminu Umar buttressed this during a recent virtual seminar titled; “COVID-19 and the Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons and the Way Forward” organized by Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN).

According to Umar, it would have been devastating if the pandemic initiated from Nigeria and foreign ships decided to boycott the nation for the safety of their crew.

“This pandemic should make us think as a nation. What if this pandemic was just in Nigeria and no vessel was willing to come into the country? What would we have done? It is high time we consider developing national fleet,” he said.

He maintained that every nation needs shipping capacity for survival, including ships, ship yards, human capacity development, viable port environment, among others.

Speaking on the new leadership at NIMASA, Ogbeifun said he expected the new leadership to have understood the issues on ground having spent 100 days at the helm of the agency.

“We must also note that their initial 100 days included the period of lockdown. Technically, it is not really 100 days. I want them to understand the burning issues and come up with an agenda and how they intend to achieve it. It may sound good to set an agenda for the new team and it may seem right to read such expectations on the media but I don’t think that’s a practical way to do things. They should come up with something and subsequently engage stakeholders to fine-tune what they have. We can share ideas and work together to develop a viable roadmap,” he said.

Ogbeifun also encouraged the new Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh to deploy a leadership strategy that would win him the support and confidence of his former superiors at the agency.

“I think it is a good idea to have Dr. Jamoh there. While this is a good development, don’t forget that he may not enjoy full support of those at the agency. Some people still have the notion that he should not be their superior because he was junior to them before. This leadership challenge is real and we can’t sweep it under the carpet. His ability to carry this category of people along could determine the level of success his administration enjoys. It is very important he realizes this and works towards developing a leadership style that wouldn’t see others pulling him down,” he added.

Meanwhile, a former Director, Shipping Development at NIMASA, Capt. Warredi Enisuoh has advised the new NIMASA leadership to prioritize maritime safety and security as well as addressing the issue of non-recognition of Nigerian ship certification process.

Although he commended the efforts to get the Deep Blue Project running and the Anti-piracy law, Warredi admonished the new team to be open-minded to provide opportunities for those in the troubled region of Niger Delta who have turned to piracy as a result of unemployment.

“Everything is concentrated around Lagos and that is why the NIMASA floating dock was intended to be in the Niger Delta region. There is need to also spread investments and opportunities to this area. The new NIMASA team should assist the government in achieving this,” he added.

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