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Customs: Fadahunsi Bombshell Causing Ripples In Customs Circles

By Stephen Ubanna

Barely four years of calling the shots as the Comptroller General of the Nigerian customs Service, NCS, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel,  appears  to  have stepped on many toes.

The fallout was the ganged up by the  aggrieved parties calling for his removal  by  President Muhammadu Buhari  over his running of the service as an appendage of the military. They want the government to appoint a Competent Professional to take over the running of the Affairs  as the army are not trained to generate revenue but to carry guns. One of the aggrieved persons  and who is very knowledgeable about Customs operations, a one-time member of the Ali Management Team and  now a Senator, Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing   Osun East Senatorial District, south west Nigeria is Francis Ade Fadahunsi .

 Fandahunsi, a retired Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, who was  may  not have not have  hidden his anger against the Customs boss, who has a Presidential mandate to’’ reform , restructure and improve the revenue collection of the service’’   over his abrupt retirement in 2006. The Osun state born politician who is now   the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Customs may have seen his election into the Senate as  a member of the Committee to continue his  unfinished battle with Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to ensure  that the right thing is done.   

 In a recent interview with one of the National Newspapers,  Fadahunsi had cited some of the atrocities being committed in Customs under the close watch of Ali. One of  such atrocities, according to him was  the inflated contract on the renovation of the Customs Headquarters at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.  He had alluded to the fact that the former Management under  retired  of Buba Jang, now Gwomgwom Jos,  had awarded the contract  at the sum of N2.7 billion but the contract had been reviewed upwards to N30 billion, showing an increase of 27. 3 billion.  F.More worrisome was the  award the contract , for the  supplies of furniture, for the Customs Headquarter offices which  runs into billions of naira when the job has not been completed.

In apparent reaction to Senator Fadahunsi  emotional outburst over  the variations  on the contract sum  on the renovation of the Customs Headquarters, Joseph Atta, a Deputy Comptroller, and Customs spokesperson  recalled that  the contract was awarded in 2006, by a  former  Management of the Service and not Ali, as alleged.  Atta justified the variations in the contract sum for the renovation of the Customs Headquarters building to that the  changes  in the prices  of items  within the period  spanning over a decade. 

Another allegation by the Senate Committee  Vice Chairman on  Customs, against Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, was  the engagement  of a Consulting firm , on agreed fee of  N1.6 billion,  to recruit  3,22 persons into the service. The question on the lips of most members of the Committee  was: whether  the Army, which is Ali’s  original Constituency ,   ever used Consultants  to recruit personnel?.

Given an insider information  on the alleged  N1.6 billion payment to the  Consulting firm , Fadahunsi  had said  that the amount was  captured in  the service budget presentation and defense   at  the Senate but  was queried by the Leadership.  Ali,  the Customs Comptroller General ,may have his reasons for engaging  Consultants  to handle the  Customs recruitment process instead of allowing  the service Human Resources and Development Department to do it .

He was said to have told  those that cares to listen that  ‘’ Customs officers  are Corrupt’’  and thus, may boggle  up the recruitment process.  He believes that  bringing  in a Consultant  to recruit  the 3,200 persons into the service and pay  the N1.6billion demanded  by  the Consulting firm would make exercise ‘’credible, transparent and smooth from beginning to end’’.

  Given a breakdown of the amount  budgeted for the Consultant involved in the Customs recruitment process,  Attah ,  the Customs spokesperson, said the figure bandied about  by  Senator Fadahunsi, was misleading.  According to him the correct figure was  N1, 570,769,00, which is approximately N1.6 billion, a figure quoted by the Senator, an indication that Fadahunsi was right.

He had said that  N300,000.000, out of the amount was for the payment of the Consulting firm, while  feeding of the  3,2000 officers to be engaged was   put at N2,000.00 daily for six months amounting N1,152,000,000,   logistics, training kits and Teaching allowances was calculated  at N1,570,679,000.00, thus bringing the total expenditure  of the recruitment process to about N3 billion. The Customs spokesperson’s worry was that the Osun state born politician said N1.6 billion was paid to the Consultant.

In spite of the criticisms that had trailed the engagement of the Consultantin firm in the Customs recruitment process by Ali, the Customs spokesperson  in a Statement confirmed that the Consultant  had shortlisted  62,399 persons  out of the 828,333, Candidates that  had  applied for the Customs job.

He disclosed  that the shortlisted Candidates have been contacted   through their email addresses and phone numbers  on where  to do their aptitude tests  at a date and center  indicated  in their respective notification slips, which they are expected  to print  out from  their email account without Complaints of extortion.  

Fadahunsi: Vice Chairman, Senate Committee On Customs

This is a remarkable departure  from the recruitment exercise handled by the Abdullahi  Dikko led  Customs Management team  in 2009, and  which  dragged on to 2015 because of allegtions o f fraud. Pressure were said to have been mounted  on the Dikko Management by the Law makers, particular, the Senate and House Of Representatives Committee on Customs  including some top government officials at the Federal level, which forced the Customs Authorities to cave in and embarked  on another   round recruitment of persons  in 2011, 2012 and 2015, in order to satisfy these perceived interests.  Top Customs personnel were said to have l also seen it as an opportunity to bring in their relations into the service.

  Note that Fadahunsi  also has an axe to grand with the  no nonsense Customs Comptroller General over his poor border control management which  had resulted  in the proliferation  of small arms , thus  threatening the  existence of the nation. He lamented  that  the Customs boss due to his incompetence had allowed traders  to smuggle  contraband goods  and other illicit items into the country that had been banned by the government and only for his men to turn round and raid the traders shop  intimidating them with their guns.

The osun state Senator, who could not hide  his feelings  insists that Ali’s border management has ‘’failed’’ as contrabands have flooded the country.  Many believe that Fadahunsi, who was  in his days in the  Service, regarded as an axe Enforcement Officer, because of the spectacular seizures made could not have done so today  because  the situation of things in the country have changed
: new policies and  ban on importation of several goods  into the country, particular, foreign parboiled rice, either through the land border or the seaports and 40 other items.   

 It was not surprising  why Ali had to engage  the other security agencies  but with the Customs as the lead agency, on the approval of the President to launch the Joint Border drills, popular, Operation Swift Response, in order  to deal decisively with the hydra-headed problem of smuggling activities in the country. There is no gainsaying the fact that the Coordinators of the  Border Drills in the northwest, south-south, north central and north west   geo-political regions, have adequately Complimented the  efforts of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, across  the country and the Comptroller General Strike Force, to deal with the smugglers headlong with their rive and vehicle seizures, which liter various Customs formations across the country.

Security watchers believe that  but for  the steps taken by Ali, to seek the  presidential approval  for other security agencies including the Department of State Security, DSS, to participate in the Border Drills Operation,  Nigeria could have been turned into a dumping ground for third party goods  imported through the  West African country of Benin and the landlocked country of Niger,  including the Central African country of Cameroon. This where  Senator Fadahunsi, may have to drop his opposition against Ali over the management of the Borders with the neighbouring West African countries and Cameroon. As I may not have been a failure as alleged.

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