By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two months after the Nigerian Customs Board under the Chairwomanship of Hajia Zainab Ahmed, the minister of Finance, approved the release of 2, 634 promoted senior officers, which included 37 Comptrollers, the Customs Authorities were said to have concluded arrangement tor for new the Comptrollers. It could not be ascertained whether the retreat would hold in Abuja, the Federal Territory , FCT, or not.
Recall that the retreat for the 2015 promoted Comptrollers, was conducted at Calabar, the Capital of the south –south state of Cross river state while the two day retreat for the 2017 Comptrollers was conducted at the Customs HeadquarterAbuja. The retreat, according to insider sources is expected to start on September 14, 2020.
The Value News learnt that the circular for the retreat have been released and the invitation sent out the Comptrollers. them The Comptrollers retreat is part of the Management tradition in to prepare the Comptrollers , the source Said to prepare the elevated Deputy Comptrollers for the responsibilities and challenges that come with their new status and to spur them to action.
The new Comptrollers who were said to have been waiting for such an opportunity going by the question most of them usually ask among themselves: when will the retreat take place?
This is because they want to be deployed in order to start functioning as Area Comptrollers to take decisions .They believe that their deployment could only be actualised by the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, led Management of the Nigerian Customs Service after the ritual. Unconfirmed report shows that some of the new Comptrollers were already using their Contacts in the Management and some close retired Assistant Comptroller Generals and Deputy Comptroller Generals close to Ali, the Comptroller General to have their way.
The situation is so worrisome as there have been pressure on the Ali led Management by some of the older Comptrollers ,particular, to change his style of Administration of introducing Deputy Comptrollers as acting Comptrollers to Head Commands when there are tens of them at the Zonal and the Headquarters begging for deployment.
The aggrieved Comptrollers could not understand why after writing their promotion examination as Deputy Comptrollers which earned them the new rank of being Comptrollers and they are left to roam about at the Zonal and the Headquarters with little or no serious job to do except what is assigned to them by another superior officer.
The Customs boss may have exhibited his state of dilemma as the Duty Comptroller , who were appointed as acting Comptrollers are not allowed to use the official Comptroller’s Hilux Van in their respective Commands. At the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, the Comptroller’s official Hilux Van is parked at Corner of the office Complex and the Coat of Arm Flag neatly folded.
Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and the Command acting Comptroller , may not have seen it as a big deal as he is still using his offcial unbranded Hilux Van Jeep , which he had used as the Coordinatior, of the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, until his redeployment to the Command last January.
The situation is the same at Katsina /Jigawa Command, where Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and the Command acting Comptroller was said to be using his official unbranded Hilux Van as the National Coordinator, of the CGC, Strike Force, some two years ago.
Equally, C.D. Wada, a Deputy Comptroller, and acting Comptroller, Seme Command, which has become a shadow of itself because of the border closure across the country with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, according to sources is still using his Official Operational vehicle .
The argument in several Customs quarters was that if Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, could bow to pressure from the Cabal within the Management to appoint Deputy Comptrollers as acting Area Comptrollers of Commands, he should also consider it necessary to allow them use the Comptroller’s official vehicle to add more dignity to the office going by what they do which may not be different from what a substantive Comptroller Could have done.
But the Customs Comptroller General, the source said , knows what he is doing. This may have informed why he has turned a deaf ear to the Complaints of the Comptrollers but allowing the status quo to remain.
A senior officer who spoke to The Magazine said the Army Colonel is impressed with the good job the acting Comptrollers are doing in their respective Commands. Take for instance, at Seme Command, despite the land border closure which has tasked the ability of the acting Area Comptroller to deliver on his mandate of ensuring that that the government policy banning the importation of Foreign boiled rice, vehicles and other items was enforced to the late with Contraband seizure that had been made between January and now.
. The Seme acting Comptroller was said to have made things very difficult for the smugglers, illegal immigrants and their security agencies operative Collaborators by tighten up security at the Command loose security areas. Maritime analysts were said to have cited the improved security at the notorious Baba Cupa axis and the Command Barracks waterside.
He may have been encouraged to embark on the Border security projects because of the Contraband seizures and number of illegal arrested at the Customs Barracks waterside alone, while on Operations at different times.
This may have him to reach out to the leadership of the other security agencies at the Boarder Community on the need to Collaborate to strengthen the security at these loose smuggler and illegal immigrant routes by ensuring the participation of all the agencies. He was said to have engaged his Counterpaarts from the NIS, BorderDrill, NIS Border Patroll, Nigerian AirFor Formy, Army, Police, Port Health and the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in a marathon meeting last Tuesday where they agreed to bury their difference to work as a Team in order to achieve result. Based on the agreement reached at the top security meeting at the Border, he was said to have been mandated to draw up a duty post roaster for the lose security areas, particular, the Baba Cupa axis, to ensure no one particular, agency dominate the patrol of the area to avoid personal contact with smugglers. A Beninois tld the Magazine that the bold initiative will make the Baba Cupa route unattractive to use by both smugglers or immigrants to use because it would be very difficult to settle all the security agencies personnel manning the rout at a go in order to enter the country with ease.
The Beninois also said that the route which had been very attractive to NIS personnel over the years because of the ease at which they cross illegal immigrants without taking into consideration the country’s security will be a thing of the past.
It could not be ascertained the number of officers each of the agencies had agreed to release to strengthen up the security in the area as the officials of the agencies maintained a sealed lips including Wada, the acting Comptroller of the leady agency Command when contacted on phone.
The Seme acting Comptroller appears to have made matters worse for the smugglers and Immigrants at the Border Community by embarking on projects that will further block the Customs Barracks waterside . An agent accosted by The Magazine recently disclosed that he was impressed when he cited the beams that had been erected and the speed at which the Contractor is handling the waterside embankment, described it as unbelievable.
There are indications, that illegal immigrants, particular, Italians and Chinese, including Africans who could not pass through the official entrance route into the country use the waterside embankment to get to their destination. This is no longer possible , agent said, as any attempt the person might fall into the ocean and be drowned. It was said to have happened in the past were an Italian using the Customs waterside embankment fell into the ocean and got drowned.
The question on the lips of most people was how the Seme acting Comptroller was able to raise the money to embark on such a money golzling project estimated to be worth millions of naira because of the rings, iron rods, cement and concrete used in preparing the beams including wood and blocks. There are indications that he may have been using the Command monthly AIEs, to execute the project as a way of adding value to the Command.
When contacted on phone on Wednesday, September 3, 2020, Abdullahi Hussain, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs, and the Command Spokesperson, confirmed the execution of the waterside enbankment project ,adding that it is still on going as planned without any stoppage of work.
According to him ,’ the acting Comptroller has denied himself the pecks of the office to embark on the money gosling project at a time the economic and social activities at the land border are at its lowest ebb. He may have also given a breather to the officers leaving at the Customs Barracks with the Construction of a security post to check vehicular movements.He may have been encouraged to mount the security posts, because of the alleged cases of theft in the Barracks.
Beyond tightening up the security at the Baba Cupa axis and Customs Barracks waterside, the Seme acting Comptroler was said to have also given a facelift to the Command trailer park inherited from the previous Administration of Comptrollers A.A. Aliyu, who is now the Zonal Coordinator, Border Drill, sector 4 Kaduna and Muhammed Uba Garba popular, UG, also a Border Drill Zonal Coordinator but in-charge, sector3. The Border Drill sector 3, going by the mandate given to him, is overseeing the north central geopolitical region Border states of Kwara, Niger, home state of Ibahim Babangida, a retired Army General and former military President and Abdulsalami Abubakar, also a retired Army General and former Head of state, Kogi, and Benue with th4 neighbouring Benin Republic.
Although, Wada, the Seme acting Comptroller is always ahead of the smugglers in their plan because his Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, background, the indigenes of the Border Community and its environs who are not unhappy appear to have become very hostile to officers as they were said to have resorted to sabotage.