Stakeholders in the maritime industry were shell-shocked by the unexpected announcement of Hammed Ali, a retired Colonel, as the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service.
Against all speculations, permutations and expectations, the retired army colonel emerged as the successor to Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, who voluntarily retired after six years in office as Comptroller-General of Customs.
The magnitude of the impact of the unexpected announcement was so severe that leadership of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), has hurried convened an emergency meeting today to discuss the issue.
”I can’t talk, but the association will meet on Monday (today) to deliberate on the development and come with our position on the matter”, declared Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the National President of the association.
”It was shocking. The appointment will take the Customs several years back”, Kayode Farinto, the National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, declared.
”The appointment is a vote of no confidence on the officers and men of the Customs Service. Does that mean there are no men of integrity in the Customs who can drive the vision of anti-corruption crusade of Mr President in the Customs?’ ‘Ada Akpononu, the Vice- Chairman of the Tin Can Chapter of ANLCA, observed.
Most operators are still dazed as they wonder why no professional was handpicked from within the system. Many say it is an appointment in error primarily because Customs administration all over the world is more of a professional than a political set up.
They argue that any greenhorn has much learning to do and would really drag the sector behind during the period of study.
Although the President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Chief Eugene Nweke has called on stakeholders to support the President’s decision and the new CG, Ali’s appointment according to him, brings to mind an era in Customs administration in Nigeria when nothing worked.
1994-1999, Brigadier General Ango who was still serving in the Army was appointed Head, Nigeria Customs Service by the then Head of State, Late General Sanni Abacha. The Service was said to have been at its lowest ebb.
Nweke hopes that Nigeria does not witness a replay of that dreaded unproductive era.
”Throughout Major General Ango’s administration, the Nigeria Customs Service never recorded any outstanding performance or improvement.
Anti-smuggling was non-operational, revenue performance was abysmally low, trade facilitation was never in focus, discipline was only recorded in the area of respect to seniority in line with military pattern.
Welfare of officers without reference, operational facilities and training infrastructure were stagnated”, Nweke reminiscent.
He emphasized that Nigeria Customs Service plays a strategic role as a catalyst not only for the growth and development of the national economy, but also for security of the nation.
A few other industry players have theorized that Colonel Ali is President Buhari’s hatchet man on a mission to sanitize the system.
This argument has been shoved aside by quite a handful of people who insist that Mr. President had other impeccable options from within Customs Service, who knowing exactly where to focus would have delivered fast if it were solely a clean- up exercise.