By Stephen Ubanna
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, appears to have destroyed all his good works in the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, which he had built over the last six years. With the mandate given to the retired Army Colonel by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General ‘’to reform and restructure the Customs and ensure an increased revenue collection for the government’’, he had pursued it to its logical conclusion.
He may have won the heart of the officers and men of the service with regular promotion and improved welfare. The Customs Comptroller General may have abolished the quota system in the service as he had based promotions on merit, which further won him the heart of the officers.
A Chief Superintendent of Customs at the Tin can Island Command told The Value News that but for the policy option adopted by the Customs boss in ensuring promotion in the service, he may not have gotten to his present rank. He disclosed that he was in one rank for Nine years but since Ali, came into office, he has gotten two promotions, which was not possible under the previous Management. There are several other senior officers had similar experiences but Ali wiped away their tears.
The Customs helmsman may have taken advantage of the Customs Board meeting on March 29, 2022, chaired by Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to seek approval for 3,466,who had passed the last Promotion Examination conducted by the service.
He was said to have also requested the upliftment of officers and men of the service recruited and trained between 2009 and 2012, based on their entry qualification of Bachelor of Science, B.SC, Bachelor of Art, BA Higher National Diploma, HND or higher degrees. He got it. With the upliftment of the officers and men of the service which was backdated to 2009, it means that officers and men of the service recruited between 2011 and 2012, would now be taking their promotion examination the same year.
He was said to have also requested for approval for a quarterly allowance payment for the Customs personnel. He got it. Recall that the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had approved a seven percent cost of collection of revenue for the service and four percent for the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, to encourage them to put more efforts in improving their monthly and yearly revenue collection for the government.
Take for instance in 2020, the Ahmad Lawan, led Senate , had approved N2238.1 billion for the Customs, being the seven percent cost of revenue for the year, which is bigger than some state governments yearly budget. Informed sources told The Value News that the Customs Comptroller General has left billions of naira in the Customs Account that he felt that the officers and men of the service should also benefit from it.
Another good thing which Ali, the Customs Comptroller General may have started implementing in the service was the payment of compensation for families of officers who had died in the cause of carrying out their legitimate duties. It was gathered that some of the families of the deceased were paid between N10 million and N20million, depending on the rank.
Good as Ali, had tried to put smiles on the face of the Customs personnel, but he appeared to have destroyed all his efforts with the one singular policy blunder of elevating officers and men of the service recruited between 2009 and 2012, leaving out those recruited between 1992 and 1994.
The fear being expressed in both official and unofficial circles, was that the Customs Board approval to Ali’s request, to elevate by one rank officers and men of the service recruited between 2009 and 2012, during the regime of Late Abdullahi Dikko, and leaving out those who joined the service between 1992 and 1994, may breed ‘’indiscipline, low morale, low productivity, feeling of rejection , alienation, and work at cross purposes in the service’’.
There are fears that it will also lead to’’ low esteem, sabotage, dichotomy and failure in meeting up targets by the Area Commands’’. The worry of many is that the recruited 2009 and 20112, officers and men of the service, who are now wearing the ranks of Assistant Comptrollers, particular, those in Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAR, Uni, Chief Superintendent of Customs, Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of Customs, do not actually know the job but after making money at the ports or at the Land border areas.Most of theem were said to have gotten the recent Promotion and are due to write another Promotion Examination this year, meaning that they will wearing three different ranks in one year, the first since the establishment of the NCS .
Indeed, the behaviour of some of the 2009, 2011 and 2012, officers and men of the NCS, who were decorated with their new ranks at the Customs Headquarters, Zonal Headquarters, Area Commands and adhoc teams, which many see as very revealing giving message of things to come. This where Ali may have to watch it to avoid throwing the Customs into a mess after his regime.
The new ranks may have entered into most of them their head going by the way most of them talk which is insulting their old superior officers who are now their juniors at the seaports, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Headquarters Strike and Joint Border Patrols, across the country that may lead to sabotage.
Yerima Shettima, National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, had described the approval of the Customs Board to allow Ali and his Management Team to promote some category of officers and men of the service, leaving others as a ‘’national calamity’’. The AREWA Youth Forum Leader would want the Katsina state state born Nigerian President, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the Leadership of the National Assembly, to intervene and call the duo, Hajia Ahmed, the minister of Finance , Budget and National Panning and Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to order ‘’to right all the wrongs and correct the abnormally before it robs off on the service monthly revenue collections at the various Area Commands and the service anti-smuggling Operations at the Land border Areas.
Informed sources told The Magazine that some power brokers in the north had criticised the controversial decision to elevate certain group of officers who had joined the service between 2009 and 2012, when the information leaked out to the public domain. They were said to have condemned it in its entirety and urged the Customs Board to reconsider the decision but that was how far they could go.
Their argument was that most of the officers who had joined the service between 1992 and 1994, have improved on their education and acquired new skills. They noted that among the 1992 and 1994, recruited officers and Men, of the service, were PHD holders, Master’s degree holders, graduates of multiple disciplines and members of different Professional bodies.
They had argued that at the ‘’point of promotion/elevation of officers, the statutory requirement ought not to be the entry qualification used by Ali and his Management Team but the experience of the officer on the job. ‘’The Ali policy option of promoting some category officers and leaving out others will backfire’’, an officer remarked. The NCS, has N4.1 trillion revenue collection to pay into the Federation Account this year. Let us hope that the new senior Customs officer would respect their old senior Colleagues to learn on the job to avoid sabotage.