Barely three weeks into his administration, one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cardinal policies has come under heavy criticism from within his own government as one of his paramilitary chiefs, Dikko Inde Abdullahi has faulted the Federal Government’s proposed plan to give N5,000 monthly allowance to unemployed youths in the country.
The Buhari Administration at the weekend declared that there were ongoing plans to implement one of its striking campaign promises of paying N5,000 each to the poor and unemployed.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who gave the hint at the 10th Year Anniversary Lecture of Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, noted that government is currently evaluating the best ways to collapse existing cash transfer and social welfare schemes to ensure consistency and alignment.
“Once this is completed, we will implement the first phase of this program, using recognized identification platforms and transparent payment solutions,” he said.
But Abdullahi, who is the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service descended heavily on the new government’s policy.
Speaking in Abuja on Tuesday at a one-day forum of the customs and textile value chain stakeholders, the Customs boss said, “I will rather prefer to finance the local industries with SURE-P than to give ordinary persons N5,000 because the common sense is that don’t give me fish but teach me how to fish.
“So by giving him the N5000, you are killing him – after the N5000 now what? He’ll come back and if you don’t give him, he becomes violent because he believes it is his legitimate right to get a money he didn’t work for.”
Abdullahi also said that he would rather resign honourably than to compromise under pressure from any quarters.
In his characteristic blunt and outspoken manner, Abdullahi also accused some unscrupulous elements within the law enforcement agencies as well as regulatory bodies of jeopardising the economic prospects of the country by aiding smuggling activities across the borders.
He said the recent seizure of contraband goods worth N480 billion in Kano State showed total failure on the part of government agencies to undertake their statutory functions.
He said there are bad eggs within the law enforcement and government agencies, which work with smugglers to sabotage the country.
However, he noted that the Nigeria Customs Service would support the textile manufacturing sector to make it an instrument for employment generation but stressed that information sharing was critical for detection and fight against crime.
He said the service would revisit a recent directive by the federal government to remove Africa Prints from the import infrastructure list, adding that the customs was not carried along in the decision.
He said efforts must be made by all stakeholders to curtail the adverse impact of economic saboteurs within and outside the country who do not have the national interest at heart.
He said, “And I want to assure members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in any way, I am not under stress or pressure, I am doing my duty diligently and I have no fear for anybody. And I want to assure you that the day I am asked to compromise, I will rather choose the path of honour because I have a name to protect.
“I would rather leave but I am sure the government of today is a government of rule of law, it is a government that has a passion for the development of this country. We have seen what is going on in Kano. There is a total failure of government agencies to undertake their statutory functions of government agencies. We have consumer protection agency, we have the standards organisation we have the immigration and we have the customs.
“And among these agencies, I will not stand here and tell you lies…we have bad eggs, the people who are doing this business together with these people (smugglers). And unless we put ourselves together and fight the evaders and unscrupulous elements among our society – 98 per cent of crime detection in the world are done through information. You can call a person and send him to do a particular job. If you don’t monitor through the information of his own activities, then get ready for disappointment. And that’s where we find ourselves.”
On the directive to remove Africa prints from the tariff plan, he said: “Suddenly, African Print was just being removed from the import infrastructure list. But I stand before you to say that the procedure that was followed was illegal because for any item that is going to be removed, added or subtracted from tariff must have to pass through tariff technical committee. But we only saw a circular suddenly that African Print is being removed from the import prohibition list.
“I am not aware that the technical committee has not sat because technically if the technical committee had sat to amend it my officers should be there. There is a desk officer who would go there but I have not been briefed about it.
“So basically we have to look at it and find out where exactly has it originated from and has it had the blessing of Mr. President, does it have the blessing of the Federal Executive Council or somewhere something went below.
“If we have to fight for a cause, if we have to fight for a legitimate right, we have to remove fear and we have to go to the authority that is concerned and tell the authority the truth. Things are not done in other countries like this.”
President of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Jacob, also confirmed that though MAN is currently a member of the technical committee, “we are not aware of the change or removal from the prohibition list.”
Continuing, the Customs boss said: “No one knows today that we have a place in Kano…that some people acquire land and put a structure like a house but when you enter the place, you find a mighty warehouse where he stocks more than fifty containers and not pay a duty and they are counterfeit, sub standard-and they are walking free in a country where we have law and order and in a country where we have law enforcement agencies who are supposed to check these menace.
“It is a shame if today we cannot stand and protect these people that can put in their own capital, that can sacrifice their own time and abandon their families and sector…and some people are coming from somewhere without having regard for anything…they destroy our cotton growing farmers, they destroy our youths with unemployment and now, the same people are determining how much dollar is sold because what they are producing and bringing into the country has no labour costs.
“And at every given minute once they make their sales, they can afford to buy dollar at any given price to repatriate the money to their own country. Can you now tell me how can we control liquidity and price of dollar with that type of crime? We all need to talk to the government.”
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