By Stephen Ubanna
For years, there have been rumours making the rounds in Customs circles that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, manipulates Customs Promotion examination results to suit his favourites.
The rumour became pronounced in 2021, when the Customs Board,under the Chairmanship of Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning confirmed the promotion of 2,7o7, officers and men of the service .
Among those that were said to have scaled the hurdle were 35 Deputy Comptrollers who were elevated to the enviable ran of Comptrollers and 64 Assistant Comptrollers Deputy Comptrollers based on the list that was said to have been submitted to the Customs Board for approval by Ali, the Customs Comptroller General.
The Customs boss may have refused to reply his critics awaiting for an opportunity to do so. The Opportunity came with the recent decoration of Assistant Comptroller Generals, ACGs Felix Okun, Greg Itotoh, Shuaibu Ibrahim, and 64 other Comptrollers, and other senior officers.
The 64 Comptrollers, who were decorated at the Customs Headquarters, alongside the three Confirmed ACGs, were among the 1490, senior officers, who got their promotion confirmed by the Customs Board in their last meeting in A Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The promoted seniors who were decorated with their new ranks, on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 could not hide their joy as they exchanged pleasantries with their Colleagues, well-wishes and friends. Some were said to have been accompanied by wives and children and other family members.
Going by the Customs tradition, officers promoted to the ranks Inspectors of Customs, Assistant Superintendent of Customs I&II, Superintendent of Customs, I &II to Chief Superintendents of Customs, CSC, were said to have been decorated with their new ranks by their various Area Controllers while those at the Customs Headquarters were decorated in the office.
The officers moved to the ranks of Assistant Comptrollers and Deputy Comptrollers at the various Commands were said to have been decorated at their Zonal Headquarters by ACGs, Coordinating the Zones, with the support of the Management Team.
Ali, the Customs Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who could not hide his feelings during the decoration of the new ACGs and Comptrollers, may have been forced to speak out to shame his critics who claims that he doctors Customs senior officers promotion examination result before presenting to the Board for approval. He had vehemently denied it.
Hear him: ‘’I play no role in the officers’ promotion but ensures that the standards are met’’. He was said to have made it clear to those who could not make the list this time around that if they ‘’conduct themselves well and pass their examination in the next exercise, they will be promoted’’.
The promotion of Deputy Comptrollers Timi Bomadi, National Customs Public Relations Officer, Musa Omale, a Headquarters Staff, Mahmood Ibrahim, a one- time officer in-charge of PortHarcourt Area II, Command, Onne port, described as Mr. Clean for tightening security at the gate that blocked all areas of revenue leakage and now deployed to the Nigerian Customs Training College, Gwagwalada, FCT, Mohammed Yusuf, Coordinator , Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Team A, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, to the enviable rank of Comptrollers, and Abdullahi Maiwada, who is now, a CSC, bear eloquent testimony to the Comptroller’s claim that he plays no role in Customs promotion examination results.
In decorating the new ACGs and Comptrollers, at the Customs Headquarters the Customs Comptroller General had charged them ‘’to work harder, exhibit exemplary conduct and generally live above board in all their dealings with the public’’
.He was said to have made it clear to the officers that ‘’Promotion comes with a lot of responsibilities that would make them more visible in the job’’, meaning that ‘’the expectations are high’’. Appealing to the senior officers,’’ to work hard’’, he stated that ‘’it is the only way to bring in more revenue into the government coffers and facilitate trade’’, pleading them not ‘’to be a disgrace to the service’’.
He was said to have told the officers to see their employment in Customs as ‘’a privilege’’, noting that ‘’out of the country’s over 200million people, 15,000 of them are working with the Para-military agency. He would want them to ensure they do the right thing to avoid playing into the Management hands that will not hesitate to apply the disciplinary measures on the n erring officers. He did not stop there. He was said to have also advised the promoted senior officers ‘’to follow their conscience’’.
In apparent response to the Customs Comptroller General remarks, ACG.Itotoh, who was said to have spoken on behalf of the newly promoted and decorated senior officers with their new ranks, may have gladdened the Customs boss heart when he assured him that they will provide ‘’quality service and robust output’’ to the service. He was emphatic.‘’We will not ‘’disappoint you but make you proud’’.
There are indications that some new Acting ACGs and DCGs, have been penciled down by the Management for presentation to the Customs Board for Approval by the Customs Comptroller General. According a top Customs Official who spoke to the Value News on the condition of anonymity the list is still a closely guided secret because of the additional names that are being added to it to ensure that the six geo-political regions of the country are represented in the Management Team. ”The official list s not out”, the officer remarked
There are speculations that Abba Kurra, a former ACG, Customs Headquarters, and Saidu G, Wale Adeniyi, including Itohtoh, one of the newly confirmed ACGs, are now Ag DCGs, to fill the vacancy that was said to have been created with the retirement of the substantive DCGs, representing their respective zones.
There are speculations also that Comptrollers. Musa MBA, who was said to have worked closely with DCG Julius Nwagwu, Trade and Tariff, T&T, now retired, has been penciled don as one of the new Ag ACGs, including Yuf Malanta, Area Controller Apa Commmand, Mohammed Jibo, Seme Command and Compt. Ibrahim Bomai, Area Controler, Port Multi-sevices Terminal Limited are on the list.
Some of thhe unconfirmed Ag ACGs, were said to have been assigned portfolios. Take for instance, Ag ACG Malanta, whom many had expected would be drafted to T&T, was said to have been taken to the service Information, Communications Technology, ICT, to continue from where he had stopped at Apapa port, to cage the fraudulent importers an Agents. Ag. ACG, MBA, was said to have been deployed to the T&T Department.
With the vacancies that may have been created at some of the Area Commands with the alleged elevation of Compt Malanta and two other senior Area Controllers including the promotion of Deputy Comptroller Yusuf, Coordinato , Comptroller General of Customs , CGC, Strike Force, Team A, to the elitist Customs rank of Comptroller, the Customs Management may take it as an opportunity to carry out a major shakeup in the service, in order to fill the vacant positions.
Maritime analysts believe that it could also give an opportunity for the Customs Management to remove some of the Area Controllers who may have over-stayed their welcome in their present Commands. Some of the Area Controller, were said to have been in their respective Commands for over two years, awaiting redeployment.
Meanwhile scores of Comptrollers are hanging out at the Zonal and Customs Headquarters without offices while some of the Comptrollers are sharing office, with little or nothing to do, turning it to gossip centres.