Customs: The Waiting Game is Over As Ali Bows To Pressure To Release Officers promotion Result

By Stephen Ubanna

 After several months of behind the scene maneuvering , Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, has finally bowed to pressure to release the  results of  the promotion examination of the officers and men of the Service who sat for it last year. Officers had expected the Customs the Comptroller General  to liaise with then minister of Finance to  facilitate the release of the result by ensuring the  Customs Board meeting was  called to ratify the result  but he remained silent, fueling speculation that he never cared about the welfare of the officers.

Martime  watchers believe that he has opportunity  of releasing the Junior officers results which is within his powers to do so but  the them waiting.  information  may have filtered to him that his men are not happy over the continuous delay of the delay could with pressure from both within and outside the Service that he quickly hastened to release the  result in batches. Already, he has released the junior  cadre result, an indication that the other ranks of  Assist Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Superintendent, Chief Superintendent, Assistant Comptroller, Deputy Comptroller  and Comptrollers, have hope of getting their promotion released soon.

 Joseph  Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and  Customs Spokes person, may have gladdened the heart of  the officers who were anxious to wear their new ranks when he issued a Statement on July 5, 2019, that  the ”Management  of the Service  has approved  the promotion  of 1,924 of its junior cadre”.  The promotion was said to have been  backdated to January 1, 2018, an indication that the officers lost nothing as the Accounts Department   may have been advised to compute the  arrears for the officers.

Attah noted that while giving approval for the release of the  promotion, the Customs Comptroller General, charged the officers  to see the promotion  as a ”call  to greater service to the country”. The Customs  boss was also said to have told the officers who passed the promotion examination   at this time  when the  nation expects  more from non oil  revenue and improved security situation,  they must  totally commit themselves to the course of ”nation building”.

Analysts  believe that Ali may have opted to put smiles on the officers by back dating the promotion to raise the morale of the officers  which had had been dampened over the couple of  months   because of the delay in releasing the results.

Mohammed Aliyu: Comptroller FOU. Zone A, Ikeja

 The Customs personnel, have  every reason to  begrudge  Ali, the Customs helmsman for delaying their promotion , when Abubakar Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP,  and Mohammad Babadende, Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, had released  the promotion  of their counterparts in the  Force,  and  NIS, respectievely who took the  Promotion examination almost  at the same time  and  were already wearing their new ranks and fresh promotion examinations conducted  and those  who passed  decorated but Ali and his management team were still struggling to release that of Customs , let alone begin preparation for conduct  of another promotion examination for officers who are due between now and December 2019.

Many believe that if Ali, had wanted to release the Customs promotion  before now, he would have  seek the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari since there is no Substantive minister of Finance, who by virtue  of the position, is the Chairman of the Customs Board, which have the responsibility of giving approval to the Customs promotion.

They cited the release of the promotion  examination  of the senior officers conducted by Abdullahi Dikko, a former Comptroller General  of the Customs by him  without waiting for any Customs Board approval.

Notwithstanding  the delay in the release of the Customs officers promotion examination, they have not shied away from carrying out their responsibility  of ensuring that the Service sustain its tempo of  improved revenue generation and anti-smuggling operations  across the country. Again, Attah, the Customs Spokes person,  had said that between January and March alone, the Service has generated  N311.2 billion, from import duty, levies, excise duty and other fees,  a clear indication that the Service would still hit the trillion naira mark this year. Note that the government  had set  a revenue target of N887 billion for the Service this year.

Recall that  in 2018,  the Service generated  N1.2 trillion  from the seaports and land Border Station, across the country. The spectacular revenue generation  may have gladdened the heart of the Katsina born  Nigerian President that he was ready to do anything to support  Ali and his men to sustain the tempo.   In  the area of anti-smuggling Operations, particular to flush out the  foreign parboiled rice and Vehicle smugglers,  Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller  Seme Command  and his counterparts in Federal Operations Unit, FOUs, across the  country  tough time.  

Recall that the President  on the recommendation of  the National Economic Council , NEC , and the  approval of  the Federal Executive Council, FEC, had banned the importation of  foreign rice and Vehicles through the land Border on j                January 1, 2017, forcing the Customs General  to give a marching Order to  the  Comptrollers of the ant-smuggling Commands to  ensure that the order  was implemented to the later.

 Take for instance , Seme  Command, which has  only one route and several smaller  Creeks and watersides  to enter  the Lagos market  with smuggled goods, Muhammed , the  Area  Comptroller was said to have effectively mobilised his officers  to take over the area as many of the smugglers have relocated to Ogun state  where  there are  about 84 unapproved  routes , according to Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS,  records to carry out their nefarious trade.

Between May and June 18, 2019, the Command  made a seizure of  8,304, equivalent of 14 trailer load of”50” bags of rice, valued at about N89 million. The rice seizure had continued to  be intercepted and  transferred to the premises of the Government Warehouse at the Border  on a daily basis by Muhammed’s various patrol teams  both on land the Creeks.  In  less than two weeks, it had made another  seizure of 1,718  ”50” bags of rice with a Duty Paid Value of N0.655 million.

 If the Command  had not made any vehicle seizure in the recent time, it may not  be for want of try as the vehicle  smugglers  have all relocated to Ogun state under the close watch of Michael Agbara who many describe as not doing much  but Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu of FOU, Zone A, has deployed   various patrol teams to the state  to augment the resident officers  who  were said to be making spectacular seizures of rice and exotic vehicles including bullet proof, already smuggled into the country and parked in hidden locations in Lagos under rain and sunshine, particular, the  Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team,  Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and Ahmed B. A. , a Superintendent who Heads  the Strike Force. In one week, the Strike Force alone, was said to have intercepted  hundreds of ”50” bags of rice from Ogun and Oyo states  porous Borders which were  said to have been loaded into three trucks and transferred to the Government Ware house at Ikeja, awaiting for Ali’s Orders to be evacuated to the Internally Displaced People’s Camps, IDP, in  the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. This is in addition to the  IDP Camp in Edo, south-south Nigeria and Orphanage homes.

Given the Comptroller General’s moves to do the needful by releasing the Customs promotion, though belated,  officers who spoke to  The Magazine  said it would go  go a long way to ginger to do more  to sustain the improved revenue collection of the Service and the anti-smuggling war. The joy  in the  face of  Riks and Ahmed , while posing Aliyu, the FOU, Zone  A, Comptroller in a Photograph  speaks volume.

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