Following a report by The Trent that five deputy comptroller-generals of the Nigerian Customs Service had resigned in protest over alleged “high-handedness” and “insecure leadership style” of the new customs boss, Colonel Hameed Ali, the Customs has issued a press statement claiming that the senior officers were part of thirty four (34) senior customs officers who had been retired as part of a “re-organisation of the service”.
The statement, which was signed by Wale Adeniyi, the Customs public relations officer was sent to The Trent on Friday, October 30, 2015 stated that the five deputy comptroller-generals, who resigned as a group via a one-page jointly-signed resignation letter, were part of a group of 34 senior officers of the service who were earmarked for immediate compulsory retirement.
Ali was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari under questionable circumstances, as he was not a customs officer and as such considered an “outsider” and “non-professional. His appointment was also seen as a breach of succession plans which bypassed the six deputy comptroller-generals in service at the time.
The statement by the Customs is viewed as a face-saving measure and an after-thought by Colonel Ali because as at yesterday, the 5 top officials of the Service had been scheduled for their annual leave with dates running into the future. Officials earmarked for retirement are sent on terminal leave not annual leave. The document obtained by The Trent, shows that Ali personally signed the leave schedule. (See below)
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.
It would be recalled that 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.
The Customs statement read thus:
As part of on-going re-organization in Nigeria Customs Service, 34 Senior Officers have been retired from Service with immediate effect. The re-organization of the Service is one of the core mandates of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd).
Those affected in the exercise are five Deputy Comptrollers-General of Customs (DCGs) who have earlier given notification to the Comptroller-General for voluntary disengagement. They are John Atte MFR, Ibrahim Mera OON, Musa Tahir mni, Austin Nwosu and Akinade Adewuyi.
Three others, of the rank of Assistant Comptroller-General are also affected in the re-organization exercise. They are Madu Mohammed mni, Secretary to the Nigeria Customs Board, Victor Gbemudu, Zonal Coordinator Zone ‘A’ and Bello Liman, Assistant Comptroller-General, (Headquarters). The rest are of the rank of Comptrollers serving in Customs Headquarters, Zonal Offices and various Area Commands.
The Comptroller-General of Customs stated that the retirements were part of measures to kick-start the repositioning of the Service for improved performance.