Mike Ozekhome uses a double standard

Jul 24, 2023 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

Time and chance may have changed the former Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col Hammed Ali(rtd), from an overtly incorruptible and frugally-minded man to a recklessly extravagant and fortuitous billionaire in eight years as NCS’s head.

Ali, who took over NCS from a simple retirement life with a 504 Peugeot Saloon vehicle, now owns a fleet of automobiles, including a 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan worth between $348,500 (N244million) and $401,500. (N281 million).

Once his replacement was announced, the previous CGC drove the white Rolls-Royce Cullinan to Abuja to see Ag. CGC Adewale Adeniyi. The maritime stakeholders need clarification on the rapid shift of the anti-corruption czar, who used the phrase to introduce the 3Rs of Reform, Restructure, and Raise Revenue, which relied on attitudinal change.

With many charges pursued, Ali, the mother of all shocks, is the purported transfer of N300 billion into a specialised account in Guinea Bissau given by a crony who has been tormented with crazy by his spiritualist accomplices for disclosing the secret and agreement made on oath.

Guinea Bissau, a West African nation of 2 million people, is becoming a financial centre for corrupt Nigerian politicians who have turned its banks into “Swiss Bank.”

Midwestgist reported that Ali and his Chief Staff Officer, Brigadier–General Isah Buhari, returned N300 billion from the CGC’s special forces and task force.

Stakeholders are now calling on President Bola Tinubu to investigate the Customs Service under Col Ali and his newfound financial opulence, which may have allowed him to try to overturn the established protocol on the promotion of senior military personnel through a letter filled with misleading claims which sought and obtained former President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for his PSO to be made a two-star general (Major General) of the Nigerian Army without undergoing any.

Midwestgist obtained copies of Ali’s letters to President Buhari and President Tinubu, in which he lauded his PSO at Customs and urged his promotion to Major-General.

The previous Customs CG characterised Isah Buhari as a guy of integrity who performed all his responsibilities with the utmost professionalism. He credited Isah Buhari with commercial facilitation, information collection, and anti-smuggling.

Letter read:

“The above-named senior officer was seconded on National Assignment to the Nigeria Customs Service as the Senior Staff Officer to the Comptroller-General and taken on Strength on September 11 2015. The officer has worked professionally since his return. Brig-Gen Buhari is trustworthy, honest, and diligent. He constantly exceeded expectations.

He has led Nigeria Customs Service changes that have increased staff performance and capability.

He has excelled in intelligence gathering and working with other agencies to stop smuggling and seize guns, drugs, and contraband. The officer has worked hard to facilitate lawful commerce in compliance with the regulations, resulting in prompt goods clearance and Federal Government income.

He supervises the Nigeria Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) and Customs Police Unit (CPU), which he founded. He coordinates IDP aid and Seized and Condemned/Overtime Cargo disposal. The officer performed all these things well. Your Highness, the officer’s unwavering support and help made my small accomplishments feasible.

Even with my great Performance Assessment Report, the officer was not promoted on July 04 2021. The officer was passed over for advancement again in 2022.

Your Excellency should know that a non-compromising enforcement officer will have many enemies to bring him down. This will lower the officer’s morale and deter others from doing the right thing.

So, Your Excellency, please approve the following:

a. Exceptional Promotion for Brig Gen I BUHARI (N/9862) to Major-General on July 04 2021, the due date.

b. Order HMOD to announce the promotion at the April 2023 Army Council meeting.

On March 21, 2023, Buhari granted a promotion. Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Buhari’s COS, wrote to Ali on March 21, 2023, to approve.

Sadly for Ali, the Ministry of Defence and Army high command couldn’t act on former President Buhari’s consent before the administration’s May 29 end. Ali submitted the letter to Bola Tinubu.

Our source’s June 15 letter praised Isah Buhari’s professionalism, demeanour, and Customs successes. In the letter, he told Tinubu of his predecessor’s clearance for Isah Buhari’s exceptional elevation to Major-General without training or tests.

On June 19, 2023, Tinubu fired Ali and appointed incumbent official Adewale Bashir Adeniyi as interim Comptroller General of Customs.

Commerce and Maritime West Africa, which also received the frantic and contentious letters, investigated.

Ali’s March 15 letter included false assertions that exposed his suggestion.

Strangely, Ali stated that Brigadier General Isah Buhari had been at the centre of current Customs reforms that enhanced the service’s personnel performance and capability.

Isah Buhari had “distinguished himself in intelligence gathering and interaction with other agencies which has help (sic) greatly in the suppression of smuggling and led to multiple seizures of guns, drugs and other forbidden goods,” he said.

They are irresponsible and untrue.

Brig. Gen. Isah Buhari was a fighter who has yet to receive customs or anti-smuggling training. How did he record all of Ali’s accomplishments? Under Ali, Customs needed a better smuggling record.

“Lacking expertise of fundamental customs anti-smuggling procedures and operations, Hameed Ali’s Isah collected soldiers and officials whose competency was doubtful to guard parts of the borders and serve in various Task Forces he organised. “In his command, over 25 million gallons of fuel was reportedly smuggled out of Nigeria to neighbouring countries every day, leading to an unprecedented surge in subsidy payments by the Federal Government,” stated a customs clearance agent who did not want his name in print.

The agent added that under Isa Buhari, rice, canned tomatoes, vegetable oils, and other illegal products were never smuggled.

“Rice and other forbidden items imported into the Benin Republic from 2015 to 2022 for the Nigerian market are public. Local farmers have voiced worries about imported rice entering the nation.

During Buhari’s presidency, Thailand and India shipped 1.1 million tonnes of rice to Benin.

By June 10, 2023, India had exported 594,439 tonnes of parboiled rice to Cotonou, Benin.

The country’s rice import decline was a fluke. As rice was mostly imported illegally, the Central Bank prevented rice importers from evaluating foreign currency, making it hard for the National Bureau of Statistics to collect correct statistics. “Any significant market in the nation would reveal Ali’s lies,” he claimed.

Commerce and Maritime West Africa found that Ali utilised the schedule of tasks he allocated to Isah Buhari, including the Customs Intelligence Unit and Customs Police Unit that he claimed he founded, to damage customs systems and commit corruption.

These two units were founded with Nigeria Customs Service. Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs Headquarters oversaw the Customs Intelligence Unit. Ali arrived and gave the Unit to an army of guys who were Customs beginners.

The Provost Marshal Unit, which Isah Buhari founded, became the Customs Police Unit. The Unit kept Customs tidy and disciplined. It ensured customs officials dressed appropriately and neatly. The Unit also upheld Service ethics, norms, and regulations. The Provost Marshal detained and reprimanded errant customs officers.

Ali and Isah Buhari converted it into Customs Police. They renamed the Unit and hired military personnel to train the soldiers and officers at significant expense to Customs, spending millions of Naira on training and uniforms.

Ali and Isah Buhari took over the Service’s Enforcement, Investigation, and Inspection Department using the units and the renowned CG’s Strike Force. The team stopped cargo on highways and blocked clearance processes for extortion.

Isah Buhari’s dominance at Customs Headquarters prevented Ali, the Comptroller-General, from getting close to Service personnel, especially his management staff. The insider added that even the DCG could not enter his office without permission. The Magazine found that this lowered officer morale and eroded rank-and-file respect for officers, undermining Service regimentation.

The PSO received information from Area Controllers for the Comptroller-General instead of DCGs. It’s little wonder the PSO was considered the most powerful person in Customs Headquarters.

The PSO was so influential that he could influence the CG on policy, contracts, promotions, deployment, and officer assignments. Officers and contractors who recognised the PSO’s immense authority sneaked into his apartment at night to advocate for important, lucrative seats and contracts.

Ali added Isah Buhari was “in charge of providing humanitarian items to IDPs as well as the disposal of seized and condemned/overtime cargoes”. According to Ali’s assertion that Isah Buhari always performed these jobs well, the disposal of overtime imports was mired in controversy and claims of opaqueness, fraud, and illegal under-pricing of confiscated cargoes. Stakeholders complained and demanded that Ali and Isah Buhari account for their auctions, beneficiaries, and profits. Ali dismissed these objections and protested over Customs disposal of confiscated and delayed goods while acquitting the individual in charge.

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