Of frequent changes at Customs Commands

Present Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi, was appointed into that office by his late kinsman, President Umaru Yar’Ádua, on 18th August 2009.
Despite various controversies, especially as a result of alleged certificate forgery, that trailed his appointment; Dikko has enjoyed relative stability as Nigeria’s Customs boss having spent almost four years in the saddle.
While Dikko has enjoyed stability in office, he has used his exalted position to deprive his field officers of same. Under Dikko, it would be a miracle for a Customs Area Controller to serve at any given location for more than six months.
At the foremost Customs Command – the Apapa Area One Command – Dikko has redeployed the Area Controllers a record seven times while Tin Can Island Port Command has had eight Area Controllers in Dikko’s three and half years rule.
The current Apapa Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Charles Edike, was posted to the Command three weeks ago from Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command where he served for barely four months. Edike took over from Comptroller Mohammed Umar who was posted to the Command in January 2013 and barely lasted for four months. Before Umar was Comptroller Garko Yusuf who served for three months. Garko took over from Comprtoller Idris Suleiman whose tenure lasted for six months. Suleiman’s predecessor was Comptroller Abdukadir Azarema who served for eight months; before Azarema was Dan Ugo who later became the Controller of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Lagos. Ugo’s tenure lasted for five months. Akinade Adewuyi, the first Apapa Customs Area Controller appointed by Dikko, was asked to hand over to Ugo after only two months on the seat.

Before the coming of Dikko, CACs had an average tenure of two years at their Commands. Past Controllers at Apapa Area 1 Command such as Oyeniyi S. O and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar spent two years each between the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Even the Comptrollers that served in the most recent past under Dikko’s predecessors such as Rasheed Taiwo, Olu Adeniyi, Angyu N. H. and Hamidu A. A. all served for between two and three years.
It is instructive to note that over the 30-year period preceding Dikko’s appointment; the Apapa Area One Command had a total of only twelve CACs whereas in three and a half years of his own regime, the same Command has had eight CACs.
The story is not any better at the Tin Can Island Port Customs Command. The roll call of CACs over the past three and half years include the incumbent Comptroller Zakari Jubril; Olanrewaju Tajudeen; Titus Aremu; Isa Nuhu; Charles Edike; Austen Warikoru; David Agbaje, and Ibrahim Mera. Each of these Area Controllers served an average of 5.6 months at the Command.
As it is at Apapa and Tin Can, so it is across all other Customs Commands and formations.

I could not find any theory in management books to support Dikko’s logic for creating the deliberate climate of instability at the various Customs Commands. I however know that whatever his reason(s), the policy will have negative consequences on both the officers being so often displaced and on the NCS in the long run.
Dikko has done well in some areas especially with regards to improved staff welfare and increased revenue collection on behalf of government, but I think the frequent changes of CACs remain a sore point of his administration.
For one, I think the frequent changes will impact negatively on the psyche of the affected officers more so that their families will have to be constantly relocated and new schools sought for the children. And those who chose to leave their families in a particular location will have to constantly leave their duty posts to visit them. This could create distractions, take a toll on the affected officers’ finances and lower their morale.
If morale is low, productivity will be impaired as it has been proven that morale and motivation provide the impetus for production. A decrease in morale will result in decreased productivity.
Those who opt to leave their families at specific locations while they move around during postings stand the risk of running multiple homes. Some of these officers might enter into relationships with other women with the attendant consequences.

I also believe that while Dikko and his close aides may be applauding their tactic as a good formula for boosting revenue collection, he is on the long run destroying the fabric of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Customs helmsman’s formula of administration is nothing but a trick – a cunning scheme intended to outwit his foot soldiers not to gain any foothold at their various commands. It is neither born out of any sound management principle nor proven management practice in civil, military or paramilitary settings.
The instability at the various commands also has dire consequences on stakeholders.
While Customs operations are guided by provisions of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA), truth is that the Area Controllers exercised a lot of power and discretion especially with regards to the clearance of goods and payment of duties. What happens with these frequent changes then is akin to frequent policy changes at the Area Command level.
And as I was trying to conclude this piece, my colleague informed me that the Controller at the Customs Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja has just been replaced – after three months.

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.