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.
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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