Information reaching The Trent is that five top officials of the Nigerian Customs Service have on Thursday, October 29, 2015 resigned in protest.
According to a document obtained by The Trent, the five officials at the rank of deputy comptroller-general of the Customs Service tendered their resignation in a joint letter dated October 29 and addressed to the chairman, Nigerian Customs Service Board.
The one-page letter (see below) says that the top officials are resigning “unanimously and voluntarily” from the service. The officials are A. J. Atte, T. A. Musa, I. M. Mera, A. C. Nwosu, and A. A. Adewuyi (who was yet to sign the document).
According to informed sources, who spoke to The Trent on the condition of anonymity, this decision is in protest of the “high-handedness” and “insecure leadership style” of the new customs boss, Colonel Hameed Ali (Rtd), an appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Our investigations reveal that on resumption early September, Ali, a long-time loyalist of Buhari had posted the senior officials to zonal offices to work with assistant comptroller-generals of Customs. On their return, they were given letters instructing them to proceed on annual leave according to a schedule (see below).
According to our sources, the Nigerian Customs Service had six (6) deputy comptroller-generals of Customs when Ali, who is a retired army official and former military administrator of Kaduna State took over the headship of the agency. One of them had retired before today.
Our source tells us that on assumption, Colonel Ali made no effort to work with the senior brass of the Customs Services, preferring instead to sideline them and engage his cronies, who have long retired from the service as consultants. This attitude of the new Customs boss led to further discontent within the service.
The decision by Buhari to appoint a long-time loyalist to head the Customs service has been questioned for its legality. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome had condemned President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing a non-customs officials to head the service. He said that the appointment was “illegal and contrary to section 3:11:1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria official gazette (2002), as Ali is a retired soldier and not a product of the customs”.
Ozekhome said in a statement, “The appointment of Hameed Ali has, particularly, raised serious issues of propriety, having been brought in from outside the customs service. By Section 3:11:1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria official gazette No 24, vol 89, dated March 25, 2002, the choice of the CG of Customs shall be by appointment of a suitable Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs.”
In the wake of Ali’s appointments, there were news reports that Nigeria could be expelled from World Customs Organisation (WCO) because his appointment failed to comply with the rules of the organisation.
In September, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, an activist had filed a suit at the Federal High Court Umuahia, Abia state challenging the constitutionality of the appointment of Ali as the Customs boss by Buhari.