Col Hammed and the Nigeria Customs Service, by Abubakar Yusuf
When Hameed Ibrahim Ali ,a retired colonel in the army was appointed as Controller-General, Nigeria Customs Service NCS few years ago by President Muhammadu Buhari, alot of cynicisms and criticisms cut across Nigeria and the globe rent the air, saying that Nigeria’s President had done the unthinkable, by appointing a non career and inexperienced person as Custom Boss.
The President’s reasons were not far fetched, as revenue leakages, corruption and ostentatious leaving of customs personel, that had affected the revenue generation organization and it’s drive, rules of engagements, the image of Nigeria and on the long run,to sanitize the major revenue yielding agency with a view to meeting the expectations of Nigerians.
The multiple opposition over his appointment knew no bound,both within the rank and file of the Nigeria Customs Service NCS, and the top echelon who felt their jobs were on the line, if the needful and business as usual was jettisoned.
While others were afraid of stagnation due to lack of promotions, some top officers went out of their ways into instigating Federal Lawmakers on the impossibility of an ex- Military man not conversant with the activities of NCS, was a dead decision on arrival.
It was in the public domain that Hammed Ibrahim Ali, the new Controller- General was set on head on collision with the National Assembly, as the issue of wearing uniform or not almost derailed the determination of the former military Governor of Kaduna state, from perfoming his statutory duty on appointment.
But, determined to achieve results, Ali was able to weather the storm and quickly settled down on his mandate to restructure, reform and refocus the high yielding revenue agency, to ensure the continuous leakages into private pockets became a thing of the past.
He quickly reorganized all the customs commands, digitized it’s activities inline with the present realities and ensured all areas of revenue leakages became a thing of the past.
Since, NCS was the sole contributor to monthly federation account, and other goverment expenditures along with economic, social and infrastructural developement, the need to redirect it’s mandate became sancrosanct.
He did not mince action by abolishing waivers and tax free policy that was abused beyond redemption through series of collisions with officers and men as well as top government officials, business communities and by extension both importers and exporters.
The ban on some products of essential commodities produced locally in Nigeria ranging from Rice and other essentials became a source of heavy revenue for the country, and encouraged local production that brought about food sufficiency in Nigeria.
Few years on the mantle of leadership of Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD) ,the custom service had returned to profitability in all areas, as most of it’s commands had exceeded it’s targeted revenue ranging into billions of Naira.
The steady contributions into the Federation Accounts Allocations Committee FAAC, had been on a steady and stable position, inspite of the global pandemic of COVID, economic downturn, activities of smugglers and saboteurs across the country and their foreign collaborators.
Nigeria, under Ali’s customs supervision had turned to export nation rather than dumping ground for imported goods as was obtainable before his ascension of duty in 2016, as it was no longer feasible to import not only tooth picks and package foods,but produced and consumed in Nigeria, with revenue yield into government coffers.
For the officers and men ,the era of sharp practices,corrupt tendencies and all other anti official engagements was over thorough orientation and reorientation ,as the fear of Hammed Ibrahim Ali is the beginning of wisdom in the customs, provided officers toed the basis of their engagements.
Without confrontation and victimisation, officers and men were routinely promoted as at when due, in line with the provisions of the service devoid of preferential treatment or sacred cows.
Punishments and reprimand were consistently implemented without fear or favour, as the top echelon of the service had no on the job overlap in the course of carrying out it’s activities.
The reward system within this period was enhanced as the highest revenue yielding command attract the end of the year bonuses, as an encouragement to do more in the subsequent years as new format was also adopted into the system.
The fight against smugglers and smuggling that had been the bane of officers and men of the service had been reinvigorated, through provisions of more arms and ammunition, equipment as well as other sophisticated weapons to confront the new wave of smuggling, that had been the other of the day across all boarders and ports in Nigeria.
Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), had carried out the most transparent recruitment with due process and diligence in the service when the need arises in the last few years, devoid of the usual favouritism, God- fatherism, sectionalism, tribalism, this was a sharp departure from the previous practices when customs was regarded as one of the easiest service to make quick money and affluence, in the context of Nigeria.
He had turned Nigeria producers of both consumables and farm products to multi billionaires arising from their efforts at making Nigeria not only the hub and food basket nation,but open to competition locally and internationally.
These achievements among many others had reduced to the barest minimum the frequent economic recession,global health challenges of COVID among many others ,social disequilibrium, unemployment rates to the barest minimum in line with the best practices.
Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), over the years had returned the Nigeria Customs Service NCS back to profitability, interms of it’s activities and revenue generation in all areas of it’s assignments.
This was justified by its recent cumulative revenue generation beyond it’s customary targets to area commands of the service as it generated N8trn in 2021, along with FIRS in Nigeria.
This positive developement had proved cynics wrong and the consternation that Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), may not do much in restoring the lost glory of Nigeria Customs Service NCS.
It is on record that the former Military Administrator of Kaduna state did his best during the Military era as Governor,a record that is fairly being broken by the current Governor, Nasir El-Rufai in all ramifications after two decades ,only to drive out his accord car from Kaduna State Government House, when he was redeployed from the State sometimes in the 90’s.
The patriotic zeal and determination to achieve results through doing the right thing had kept Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), over the years in his retirement, before he was appointed as Controller-General, Nigeria Customs Service NCS by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Col Hammed Ibrahim Ali (RTD), no doubt is determined to do more in all areas to bring an end to the general public,the good idea of service to the nation, rather than achievements of individuals, groups or communities.
Written By Abubakar Yusuf from Abuja, and can be reached on [email protected]