Sacked Customs ACGs as sacrificial lambs?

Chinazor Megbolu

The recent sack of two top Customs officers for alleged wrongdoings have been greeted with diverse opinions

 as some believed the alleged offences for which they were hammered pale into insignificance when juxtaposed with their past commendable deeds.

Some industry players in their opinions believed that there is more to the sack than meets the eye.

However, every organisation has its rules and regulations set for the staff and there is always a punitive measure for anyone that runs foul of such rules.

Perhaps the leadership of Customs have some internal rules that override the emotions of industry watchers whose judgement stems from the previous feats of the officers.

Since the retirement and dismissal of the officers in the persons of a former Coordinator of Zone B, Assistant Comptroller General, Abubakar Bashir, and the alleged dismissal of the immediate past Coordinator, North West Joint Border Drill, Assistant Comptroller General, Aminu Dahiru, Nigerians and stakeholders in the maritime sector are demanding objective, inclusive and fair probe in the matter because due process was allegedly not followed in the compulsory retirement and dismissal of both officers. The two men need a fair hearing.

The former ACG Dahiru was alleged to have been involved in the aborted smuggling of 178 trucks of petroleum products across the Nigerian border when he was the Coordinator of Operation Swift Response in December 2019 approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and overseen by the Office of the National Security Officer (ONSA).

However, Bashir was asked to appear before the same probe panel for his involvement in an unauthorised operation that led to the alleged raiding a warehouse owned by a friend of President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura in 2019.

Dahiru, before the announcement of his retirement, was part of the security operatives in charge of the special task force outfit that was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in August 2019

Many industry operators believed both Dahiru and Bashir weren’t given a fair hearing before the recommendations for their sack as it was marred with half-truths leading to the compulsory retirement and dismissal from the Service.

However, the puzzling side of the whole saga was the denial of alleged recommendation for the retirement and dismissal of both officers of international repute.

The NCS spokesman, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah waved away the reports of the sack of the officers saying the ratification of the recommendation ends with the board of Customs made up of the Minister Of Finance, the Customs Comptroller General, representatives of relevant agencies and departments, including the academia.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. I am not aware that any ACG has been sacked, the service procedure does not allow such a thing to happen when the customs board didn’t discuss or endorse such ab action.

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown, the board has not been able to meet for a long time. Therefore, you people are acting on rumour and this does not serve the country in any positive light,” Attah said.

Despite the explanation by the PRO, some Nigerians still believed that the whole arrangement was shrouded in secrecy.

They also believed that the duo are just being made sacrificial lambs for stepping on toes of seemingly untouchable Nigerians as it is in the case of Bashir.

The fear in some quarters is that fine officers like Bashir who rejected over N50 million bribe to allow regulated drug into the country was unfairly treated.

A huge percentage of the rank and file of NCS expressed disappointment over the development, given the high regard and respect these affected officers command.

They feel it is an attempt at tarnishing the image of the refined officers. Some of the officers in other quarters alleged that what happened is all about power play, witch-hunt and intrigues making it to look a crab mentality otherwise known as pulling down syndrome due to glamorous perks of office.

What a way to reward an officer like ACG Abubakar Bashir, a known anti-corruption agent.

It’s on record that he received two merit awards from Col. Hameed Ali, as Customs Area Controller Onne and Apapa, respectively.

The second award was for his refusal to take about N150 million bribe to release a consignment of Tramadol. An officer who could do this arguably will not descend so low to raid a rice warehouse for personal gains.

Even the World Customs Organisation (WCO) wasn’t left out in giving him an award for Exemplary Performance and later, the Presidential Award on Integrity awarded him by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
How can such an officer recognised abroad and with intellectual attributes be treated in such a way by same organisation he risked his life serving?

Something urgent needs to be done to remedy the alleged recommendations for the dismissal of both ACGs.

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