Dikko’s future at Customs House

Despite the gains recorded by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) under Abdulahi Inde Dikko as the Comptroller General since his appointment in 2009, there are clear indications that he may not be retained by the incoming administration of the President-elect, General, Muhammadu Buhari.

It would be recalled that President Jonathan had extended the tenure of Dikko in 2013 by two years after completing an initial four-year term.

Admittedly, while the NCS under Dikko has undergone reforms especially in the areas of information technology, capacity building and enhanced staff welfare, there is no doubt that he has overstayed his welcome as the customs chief.

Although, Dikko is believed to have initiated reforms in the Service, industry stakeholders believed that he should leave office while the ovation is loudest. That both Dikko and Buhari hail from the same Northwestern state of Kastina notwithstanding, the Customs chief is known to be a die-hard ally of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan. This will no doubt count against him under the GMB administration.

Also, many ambitious senior Customs officers are plotting to take over the Dikko, with some accusing him of being selective in appointments and promotions.

Some accused Dikko of reserving promotions and juicy postings for his close allies and cronies especially those of northern extractions.

An officer who craved anonymity said, “Some ?junior officers of northern extraction are more powerful than some Customs Area Controllers (CAC) from the south.”

While industry stakeholders and some senior officers have expressed concerns over his continued stay in office, Dikko has also been accused by some of ‘militarising’ the Customs and ‘running it like a personal estate’.

Chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarder (NAGAFF) Segun Musa is one of those who oppose Dikko’s continued stay in office.

He said, “We need a Customs that will uphold high ethical standards in their job and be less corrupt. We need a customs administration that is more business friendly. What we have now is more of a militarised Customs that is coerce and full of intimidation.”

While Dikko may have done his best as Nigeria’s Customs chief for almost six years, he is not seen as being exceptional administrator, with some Customs officers and industry stakeholders believing that so much work remains undone under his administration.

For example, industry stakeholders have scored him low in border security. According to them, the NCS under Dikko failed in curtailing the importation of arms into the country, which they attribute to the ineffective policing of the border posts by security operatives especially Customs.

One of them, a top freight forwarder, Simeon Amobi said, “It is also a known fact that most of the big time smugglers smuggled in some of these products in connivance with customs officers and with a little greasing of the palm, the goods are cleared”.

Customs officials at the borders still lack effective communication equipment, patrol boats and helicopters. Most of them, especially Customs marine officers also lack decent accommodation; carrying out their tasks in makeshift tents and structures.

Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agriculture sector, Wale Oyewole is of the opinion that there is need for a complete overhaul of the Nigeria Customs Service by the incoming administration to pave way for a new leadership given how common place corruption has become especially among those commomly described as ‘Dikko boys’.

“We need a new hand; corruption in customs is very high. The issue of the duty evasion by some rice importers that is on ground now is with the connivance of some customs officers otherwise how does rice get into the country?

“The incoming administration needs to sweep the whole service; most of the customs officers are very corrupt. With all the money they are making why can’t they tighten our borders?

“The borders are too porous and the Nigerian citizens are the ones losing out. To me, I don’t see what they are doing,” he said.

A senior customs officer who does not want his identity revealed for fear of reprisals, believes Dikko has overstayed his welcome at Customs House.

“No matter how good somebody is, if he has overstayed his welcome and refuse to leave, he will lose value.

“The CG has tried but there is still much corruption at the top.  For example, some officers are involved in the duty evasion by the rice importers. We are still lacking behind in terms of allowances. Officers are also not finding it easy in the area of accommodation especially when on transit. So, we need a new hand so that we can see some changes in the system.”

While General Buhari has given assurances, during the electioneering campaign, that he would not probe the past administration, he has vowed to fight corruption “so that corruption does not kill the country”.

The issue of corruption in Customs and other government agencies has therefore become a tall order for the incoming regime to clean up.

“Power, it has been said, corrupts while absolute power corrupts absolutely. Public servants whose tenures are extended often entrench a system of inequality and corruption.

I think Dikko’s clinging to power is no longer wise. He would be well advised to voluntary announce his intention to step down before he is forced out of office by the new government,” the senior Customs officer added.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.