Why Senate may probe Customs over N1.6b recruitment cost, appointments
There are strong indications that the National Assembly may probe the activities of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) over issues bordering on maladministration.
NCS Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had had a running battle with the Senate in the past, especially during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first tenure.
Ali had failed to present himself when summoned by the red chamber, and when he eventually did after so much muscle-flexing, he was not in NCS uniform.
Recently, the nation was jostled by a report that the Service under Ali budgeted a whopping sum of N1.6 billion for the recruitment and training of 3,200 personnel.
Adding his voice to the call for the review of happenings in this high revenue yielding service, a former Comptroller General of NCS, Hamman Ahmed, not only frowned on the disturbing recruitment profligacy, he also described as illegal Ali’s reported appointment of a serving Brigadier-General of the Nigerian Army as the Principal Staff Officer (PSO).
He saw both issues as very shocking and disturbing.
While not quarreling with Ali’s appointment by Buhari, which he said was with the president’s purview in line with the constitution, Ahmed noted that the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) empowered the Customs Board to appoint, promote and dismiss officers and men of the Customs.
But that Ali lacks powers to appoint any personnel, especially the PSO.
Going down memory lane, the former CG pointed out that appointment of a PSO in the service came about and had since been corrected and stopped. He wondered how the new PSO was being remunerated.
He said, “The appointment of a serving Brigadier-General by Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) as his PSO is illegal. The president appointed Ali as Customs CG in line with the provisions of Section 171 of the Constitution. Section 4 of CEMA also conferred only on the Customs Board the power to appoint, promote and dismiss officers, and men of the Customs.
“The Customs CG has no power whatsoever to appoint anybody. Which authority gives Ali the power to appoint a PSO? Who then appointed the Brigadier-General and how is he paid? Does he take a salary from the army and allowances from Customs, or he receives a double salary?
“The position of a PSO was created by Aliyu Mustapha, when he was CG; but when Buba Jang took over, he changed the designation from PSO to ACG Headquarters. Presently the Customs has PSO and ACG Headquarters. Is it not duplication of work and wastage or even corruption at work?”
Ahmed’s observations came barely days after the deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Francis Fadahunsi, lamented the N1.6 billion recruitment budget by Ali.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Service, Joseph Attah, did not deny the cost but shed more light on how the money would be spent.
But Ahmed noted that Fadahunsi had rightly said that there was a fully automated training facility with full accommodation for officers in Ikeja and an advanced training college in Karu, built to university standard for the training of senior officers and headed by a Deputy Comptroller General, a well-trained officer.
He, therefore, wondered why the CG would seek external training at such a huge cost to the nation.
These and other alleged infractions within the Service made the Senate, according to a source, want to probe the activities of the Customs to stem further financial embarrassment.
So far no reaction has come from the presidency in view of bitter complaints from both senior and junior staff over arbitrary promotions and postings within the Service.