Of Col. Hameed Ali, integrity and N1.6bn Customs recruitment fraud
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Recent revelation by the Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber that the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali rtd, the self-acclaimed Mr. Integrity and anti-corruption czar spent over N1.6billion to recruit 3, 200 personnel of the service came to many as a rude shock.
My late uncle (God bless his soul) was probably right when he told us that bad behaviour or character is like cough; the more you struggle to cover it up, the more it manifests. This statement is correct in relation to Col. Hameed Ali.
Though his appointment was unarguably the most criticised among all the appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari, especially on the basis of competence, he initially gave the false impression that he did not like the job, but from what we saw later, he cherished the appointment so much. For instance, while he was appointed in the first week of July 2015, he only made the first appearance at the service’s headquarters after two weeks and then resumed sometime in the first week of August 2015. The new CG did not hide his resentment and seeming hatred for the officers and men of the service, all of who he labeled as very corrupt. Thus in his first meeting with the top echelon of the service, he was quick to tell them that his mission was basically to rid the service of corruption. He told them: “I will sack and jail corrupt officers”. It was also gathered that he later instigated an investigation into the true worth of these officers both in terms of assets and money in the bank only to discover that many of them are actually very poor. At the same meeting, he also announced the presidential mandate handed over to him: to restructure, reform and increase the revenue generation by the service by blocking all leakages accentuated by corruption.
Few weeks later, Col. Ali addressed the maritime media in Lagos with his unending anti-corruption dirge. He left no one in doubt that he was an apostle of President Buhari and must fight corruption even with the last drop of blood in his veins. But true to my uncle’s analogy about bad behaviour, he manifested albeit inadvertently his corrupt tendencies when he arrived terribly late to the meeting. The briefing was scheduled for 3pm prompt as was emphasised by his media managers but he arrived shortly before 6pm. The CG had also turned down the hotel arrangement made for him by the protocol unit of the service during that first visit to Lagos and instead opted to put up with a relation in an undisclosed location in Lagos.
Today, the same CG maintains suits in five star hotels in all the major towns and cities in the country that he visits. The question one may ask is why pretending in the first place. As a former Military Administrator, Col. Ali knows very well how government protocols work, and so this could not have been a case of ignorance.
The CG, having labeled all the personnel of the service as corrupt, has not hidden the fact that he does not trust anyone of them. For instance, he said overtly that he could not trust any officer with the regular auction of seized vehicles and other items and so with the aid of consultants, he opened an online platform for bidding for the sale of the items. This is same for the recruitment of new officers and men into the service, which he has awarded to a consultant under the guise that the officers are corrupt and therefore cannot be trusted with such an exercise.
Among Christians, it is strongly believed that for every Goliath, there must be a David, for every Lawan, Mr. Integrity of the Senate, nature will raise an Otedola to silence and dismantle him and for every Col. Hameed Ali, God has raised Ade Fadahunsi to tell the whole wide world that he is a mere pretender.
Senator Ade Fadahunsi, a retired Assistant Comptroller General ACG of Customs, who represents Osun East Senatorial District at the upper legislative chamber. The Senator, who also doubles as the deputy chairman Senate Committee on Customs and Excise could not hide his disappointment when the CG told the committee that he spent N1.6bn to recruit 3, 200 personnel for the service. The committee was left with no option than to call on President Buhari to sack the Comptroller-General over this alleged fraud and incompetence.
In an interview he granted the Punch Newspaper last Sunday, Senator Fadahunsi, who must have also participated in recruiting personnel of the service over the years, was alarmed over the claim of N1.6billion cost paid to a consultant for the recruitment of 3, 200 personnel.
He was also quoted as alleging that Col. Ali’s sheer incompetence and poor border management had resulted in the influx and proliferation of small arms which is now threatening the nation’s existence.
Fadahunsi while wondering whether the service was recruiting five million personnel, asked the CG if the Nigerian Army or any other security agency has spent such amount to recruit personnel.
But in a rather feeble response, which stakeholders also described as an after- thought, the national public relations officer, Joseph Attah, said that the N1.6billion quoted for recruitment of 3,200 personnel into the service was without the details captured in the budget was therefore misleading.
According to him, “For clarity, the correct figure is N1, 570, 769,000”. One wonders if there is any difference between N1.570billion and N1.6billion.
“This covers recruitment process which is N300, 000.000, feeding of 3,200 put at N2,000 each, daily for six months amounting to N1, 152,000000.
“Then Logistics, training kits and teaching allowances all carefully calculated to arrive at the N1,570,769,000.00.
“It is therefore wrong to attribute the sum to only the recruitment excluding the bigger picture of six months training period”, Attah, who is a Deputy Comptroller of the service had said on his Face Book page.
But he failed to tell the world how much it cost the service to recruit personnel in the past and why consultants must be engaged when the service has everything in place to hire and train its new intakes. It is obvious that the breeze has blown and it has been discovered that Rev. Fathers wear shorts under their cassocks.