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.
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.