By Lateef TAIWO AND Alheri DOGO, Abuja
Customs Comptroller General, Hameed Ibrahim Ali, has been going round Customs formations across the country, not only to acquaint himself with operations of the service being an outsider, but to also make an on the spot assessment of the alleged rot said to have been left behind by former Comptroller General, Dikko Abdullahi Inde.
At every point, the new helmsman did not leave anybody in doubt on the fact that he has a mission at the Nigeria Customs, and he has a mandate to correct the bad image given to the service as the proverbial ‘cash cow’. To do this, he has to look into certain past actions that may have failed to comply with President Muhammadu Buhari’s transparency standards.
Even before Ali assumed office, it was apparent that President Muhammadu Buhari, will move against the top echelon of the customs. Thus, the resignation of Abdullahi Dikko, as Comptroller General of the service, shortly after President Buhari assumed office was not unexpected, just as the siege on his Abuja residence long envisaged.
In the wee days of his leadership of the customs, it was also clear that, like the forces that propped him up for appointment in the first place, other forces have been working against him since August 2010, when he assumed office. To this end, all his deputies, irrespective of whether they were part of the alleged rot or not, had been declared in principles as personas non grata by the new government.
Dikko’s resignation had generated mixed reactions inside and outside the service. While some commend him for what they termed his unequalled innovations in the operations of the Nigeria Customs, others regard his tenure as a failure, laddered with series of corrupt practices. The latter group holds that the former customs boss was stupendously rich at the expense of the nation.
Dikko Inde who took over from Nwadialor Bernard Shaw, during the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s administration was retained by former president Goodluck Jonathan. He is on record to be the longest serving Comptroller General and perhaps the most visible.
Whatever people think of the erstwhile Comptroller General, are now immaterial, but events in the aftermath of his administration suggests that, he may not enjoy the envisaged peace in retirement, as nationalTRAIL reliably gathered that operatives of both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, have concluded arrangement to arraign Dikko, for an alleged multi -billion naira sleaze while in office.
The anti graft agencies may be acting on a petition signed by one Dr James Onoja, on behalf of Nigeria Customs Transparency Initiative, NCTI, a group which listed series of involvements of the former CG and his lieutenants in alleged shady deals while in office.
It may be recalled that al,l deputy comptrollers of Customs who served under Dikko collectively resigned their positions having sensed that there was a move to rope them into allegations of corruption, and in protest over the appointment of a non career Customs officer, and retired military officer, Hameed Ali, as Comptroller General.
As it is, sources said all the former deputy Comptrollers may have gone under out of fear that they may the next in line, when operatives of the anti graft agencies succeeds in picking Dikko Inde.
Our correspondent reports that security operatives have gotten the nod to lay siege on all airports in wait for the arrival of the former customs Cg and some of his deputies who worked hands in gloves with him.
Mentioned in the petition was the alleged inflation of the contract for the construction of Customs staff College and acquisition of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Barracks in Abuja for about N15billion.
In the petition, the group is seeking a thorough probe into the allegations against Inde, which had earlier been reported to former President Jonathan, before he left office. Amongst other allegations is that throughout his tenure, the service was engaged in false declaration of its actual annual revenue.
“On yearly basis since Dikko took over the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service, he had constantly made false impression of excellent performance, “the group alleged, adding “The Customs has always been adding figures of the Value Added Tax(VAT) which it collects on behalf of the Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS) to the revenue derived from Customs duties whereas the same VAT figure has been included in the VAT revenue declared and announced by FIRS as required by Law, thereby creating a misleading duplication of revenue figures derived from VAT.
“For instance while Dikko claimed to have raked in more than N2 trillion for the Customs between 2011 and 2012, investigations have on the contrary, revealed that all the Customs actually collected in form of revenue were N607Billion and N872Billion for2011 and 2012 respectively.
Under the welfare (Insurance fund), the Nigeria Customs Service was defrauded of about N7.4billion yearly from 2012 till the time of his exit, while relatives of deceased officers are left unattended to as nothing was paid to them as insurance benefits.“Additionally, the customs should be made to explain what led to the disappearance of some containers at Lagos ports and N3.5billion internet facilities by the Service.” It stated.
Before his appointment, Abdullahi inde, was redeployed to Abuja as an Assistant Comptroller General from Seme Customs Command, where he was the Customs Area Controller. Eight months later; he was made the CGC without attaining the mandatory Deputy Comptroller General rank. On assumption of office, he retired those he considered too ambitious and possibly could challenge him.
Similarly, he also had a running battle with a human right activist and lawyer, Festus Keyamo, over an alleged certificate forgery, which till date, outcome of the allegation has remained a mystery.
Some officers told our correspondent that, as the CGC, businesses at the ports remained comatose for a long time, as freight forwarders were at logger heads with Customs Officers over imposition of arbitrarily duties which was driving many of them out of business.
Another possible area Dikko is being investigated may be the alleged proliferations of small arms into the country that found their ways through Nigerian boarders. As the Comptroller General, a large cache of arms were intercepted at the Apapa Ports by his men, but nobody has declared them and nobody has been prosecuted for the offence to date.
In 2012, whistle blowers alleged that two containers laden with cocaine allegedly passed through the Tin Can Island Ports. The Containers were later traced to a warehouse in Orire, a suburb, in Lagos by the NDLEA, no one was brought to book for facilitating that deal either.
Source within the Nigeria Customs Headquarters, in Abuja, who pleaded anonymity, told nationalTRAIL that why the appointment of John Atte, as the Acting Comptroller General, generated so much heat had to do with alleged plots to cover up so many misdeeds of the past management under Dikko. Atte, was in charge of Finance administration and Technical service (FATS), a position Dikko may have kept him to cover up some of the alleged sordid transactions in the service.
By Lateef TAIWO AND Alheri DOGO, Abuja