By Abdulwahab Abdulah
The recent appointment and the swearing-in of the new Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Dikko Abdullahi Inde by the federal government has again thrown up another opportunity that the nation cannot afford to miss as a young officer leads the countryâ€™s customs services.
Like other government parastatal that generates fund for the country, the Nigeria Customs Service, no doubt has been performing below its set target. The development over the years has affected its revenue generation drive which has snowballed into a little above N30 billion from the estimated N70 billion income expected.
With the assumption of office of the new Comptroller-General, there must be an agenda setting for a man who has been adjudged as an astute officer â€œwith zero tolerance to corruptionâ€ not to fall into the mistakes of the past leadership of the service.
It was gathered that Dikkoâ€™s name topped the list of the three officers short-listed for the number one customs office. In the first place, it would be wrong for the federal government to go ahead in appointing Dikko as the Comptroller-General of customs if he did not posses the qualities that match his new post. However, none ofÂ the other customs officers, including Rodah Akor, Ezekiel Okeniyi and Adamu Rabiu have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties to the customs service and the country. The names of the ACG Atte, Anyaneka and Othman were mentioned as contenders to the top customs office. Despite all their intimidating credentials, one of them surely must emerge as the No 1 customs officer. The result makes Dikko the ultimate man for the job.
Though some people have criticized Dikkoâ€™s rapid promotion in service those who know him argue that he is most qualified for the office because of his intimidating credentials and performance in service.
There was no one who criticized his promotions on ground of non performance or that he did not merit it. For instance, his promotion underthen President Olusegun Obasanjo was based on his performance and that of others on the recommendations from memorandum submitted to the government which stated â€œthe list of 15 officers recommended for promotion are relatively junior rank but have been identified as tested, competent and highly effective.â€ Born on May 11, 1960 to the families of Abdullahi Usman Inde, Dikko, an accountant who was described as â€˜a terror to smugglersâ€™ has so much up his shoulders to rescue the declining image and income generation drive of the customs.
As earlier said, there are many problems that have bedeviled the organisation. So Customs cannot be found wanting, especially now when the revenue generation of the government from oil resourcesÂ are dwindling by the day. It is on record that the image of the customs and its rating by Nigerians and those outside the country is nothing to write home about.
To start with, one of the challenges starting at the new administration of Dikko on the face is the poor revenue generation. The poor performance of the previous administrations, especially in the recent past was said to be one of the major things that led to the poor outing of the customs. This has led to unabated corrupt practices which pervade its workforce leading them to series of sharp practices, robbing off the government of the expected revenue to accrue to it.
Smuggling, which is a major vice among other vices in the customs, has served as conduit pipe where importers cheat the government of duties and other charges. Some officers and men of the services have been enmeshed in the act to the extent that they deliberately aid and abet smugglers in their business.
Though, it is on record that the present CG of customs was popular among the rank and files of the customs, not withstanding, some of the officers have been complaining that in spite of their enormous task and responsibility to the Nigerian state, they â€œare poorly paid, no facilities to work with, while some of our senior officers sit on our entitlements,â€ recalled a junior officer recently. The low morale of the officers was said to be part of what led to their corruption .
This has led to their support for smugglingÂ and cheating on government on revenue generation. There is what is regarded as the 60:40 syndrome between customs officers and clearing agents. The two parties use this formula to share the proceeds of deals in the goods clearing process thus depriving the government of substantial revenue.
This despicable practice has dominated even the commanding heights of the customs and become so alarming that if not urgently checked, could cause even more harm to the national economy.
It is for the above stated problems and challenges that the Customs under the leadership of Dikko has to prepare itself . One does not doubt the credibility of the new leadership; however it needs some revolutionary moves to get to its aspired zenith.