Customs : Why Buhari May Not Drop Hameed Ali

By Stephen Ubanna

 Those who think that President Muhammdu Buhari would drop Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, may have to do a rethink . This is because the katsina born Nigerian President is not in a hurry to relieve him of the portfolio for now  because of   his impressive performance i in the last four years working within  the mandate given to him.

The President, according to Presidential sources sources, has every reason to be happy with the Bauchi state born Customs Comptroller General who has a mandate to reform , restructure and improve the yearly revenue generation of the service.  He was said to have gone down to work by refusing to be Compromised by the importers and the agents with their Customs Collaborators who have  a way of  forcing the customs officials occupying strategic positions to do their biddings. From the onset , he was said to have  made clear that the right thing must  be done as he  threw his weight  on the  Federal Operations Units and Land Border stations across the country to ensure that the government policy on importation of foreign parboiled rice and vehicles through the land Borders were not Compromised.

 Given the government concern  to protect the local rice farmers and  boost patronage of Nigerian ports,  he had established the CGC Strike Force, which had been decentralised  to compliment the effort of the anti-smuggling Commands, particular, the FOUs in the anti-smuggling war. The Area Comptrollers may have  read his mind set that he is not ready to accept any gift from any of them  but to  do their work work as it ought to be done but to fall in line to void falling into his trap.

Note that in the past , Area Comptrollers struggle to win the heart of the Customs Comptroller General  every Friday  with their handouts but  with Ali, the tradition appears to have stopped. The Value News learnt that no Area Comptroller dare call at his office uninvited or pick his phone to call him without any reason. It was learnt  that he calls any of the Area Comptroller s when the need arises either to commend him for a job well done  or to give the Comptroller an assignment to carry out in his area of jurisdiction.

It was gathered that whenever he wants to talk to the Area Comptrollers,  he schedules  meeting where all of them would gather at the Customs Headqurters, Abuja. He has done it several times. The most recent of such meetings was the one he had with the Area Comptrollers of FOUs, Land Border Commands and Coordinators of the CGC Strike Force, across the country where he expressed his worries about the with the Comptrollers in the north west geo-political region in the Customs anti-smuggling war . He haad  expressed his reservation  with the Area Comptrollers in the region because of  of news which  filtered into his ear that foreign rice and Vehicles are  being  smuggled into the Country through the Border Communities  with Niger in the region and the officers are  not doing anything about.

 The Customs  Comptroller had General had  had used the opportunity provided by the meeting to single out Mohammed Aliyu, Muhammed Ubar Gar and Michael Agbar, Comptrollers of FOU  Zone A, A, Ikeja, Seme AND Ogun Commands , all Area C omptrollers in the  south west , for Commendation  in their spectacular seizures in their anti-smuggling war to encourage their Counterparts in other Commands  not  leaving up to expectation to sit up.  

News making the rounds indicate that virtually all the anti-smuggling Commands  have intensified their  anti-smuggling war to ensure that the government fiscal policies were not Compromised. From the anti-smuggling   Commands in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo/Osun, Kaduna Sokoto/Zamfara/kebbi  to Borno/Yobe, the story is the same. The Commands at the nation’s seaports are not left as they are also competing with the  traditional anti-smuggling Commands to make seizures. These have been the lots of  Apapa and Tin-can Island Command in the recent time. The intensified anti-smuggling  operation in the Command  should gladden the heart of Ali, the Customs boss, that he had repositioned the service in the  fight against these economic saboteurs called smugglers.

 Ali’s no nonsense attitude in running the Service in the last four years may have forced the Area Comptrollers to put a close tab on  what the officers are doing at the ports and the land Borders which had snowballed into improved revenue Collection. In the last two  years the Customs yearly revenue generation had hit the Trillion naira revenue  mark. In 2017, the Service under his close watch had generated  N1,012 tn while it paid into the generation Account  N1.037 in 2018. The Service  was already on the path of hitting the trillion naira mark  this year going by the  half year revenue generation of the various Commands, particular, Apapa and Tin Can Island Commmands. This is  a feat  had never been achieved  under any former Customs   Comptroller General.

Hameed Ali: Customs CG

The Customs Comptroller General may have further won the heart of the President with the  handling of the directive  to ensure  all condemned  parboiled  foreign rice, Vegetable Oil , secondhand clothing and other items that liter the Government ware houses   across the  country  were  allocated  to the Internal Displaced People IDP’s Camps in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe including the IDP Camp in Edo state. Since the Presidential directive was handed over to him in 2016,  Ali, had mobilized his Area Comptrollers  to ensure that the Presidential directive was carried out to the later. Presidency sources told the Magazine that the  Magazine that President is highly impressed  as  the Customs  under Ali had taken the burden of feeding the Internally Displaced persons  from the government.

   The initial believe was that  the Customs Comptroller General may  have entered the  last phase of his assignment : reform and restructure  the Service, by creating eight additional Commands   to beef up its anti-smuggling war and further boost its revenue generation . The affected Commands which were split into  two include Ogun Command, Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command, Western and Eastern Marine Commands .  Others Onne Lighter terminal and Sokoto/Zamfara/ Kebbi  Commands among others.

 Some of the new Commands that readily comes to mind were idiroko, carved out  from Ogun Command,  Murtala   muhammed Airport ,  Onne  Oil and Export Free Zone  Kebbi  Commands. AS part of the restructuring exercise, Por tHarcourt International Airport  terminal was said to have been  joined to Port Harcourt Area 1 Command to boost its revenue base.

Insiders informed the Magazine that Buhari may have looked  at the achievements of the Customs boss  in the last four years  and did not see any reason  for his  replacement to avoid returning the Service to what it  used to be in the past  that people like him had a low opinion of the Customs describing the name as synonymous with Corruption.   There is no gain saying the fact that as at now, the President has a very high opinion of the Service going by the reports sent to him  by him. The high revenue generation and spectacular seizures of exotic vehicles including bullet proofs, particular, a 2019 model , thousands of ‘’50’’ bags of foreign parboil rice, vegetable  oil and recovery of billions naira lost revenue speaks volume.  

Note that the  revenue generated by the Service have  been used severally shared  by the Revenue Fiscal Mobilisation Committee, RFMC, for the three arms of government: Federal , state and local governments  because of the drop in oil price in the international oil market.

 By taking the   Customs  to another level, where it is now competing  with the oil sector  in revenue generation, an indication that if the non- oil sector  has been properly developed over the years, the country  would not have  been described as a mono economy.

 The  government  was encouraged to focus on  diversification of the  economy and  promotion of exportable goods like Cocoa, Cotton, and other Agricultural products including semi-processed wood which are in high demand in the Asian country of China.

 Only recently , Buhari, and Paul Talon, his counterpart in Republic of Benin signed a trade pact, at the 12th extra-ordinary meeting of the Authority of  African Union of Heads of State and Government   in Niamy, Niger.  

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