About six months after leaving office as the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, series of petitions alleging large scale misdemeanours have been sent to the National Assembly against Elder Jacob Gyang Buba.
Buba who was appointed Customs boss on March 19, 2004 was relieved of the appointment on May 27, 2008 and since then, he has been accused of many wrong doings and these allegations have climaxed with the petitions to the legislature.
Shipping Position Weekly confirmed last week in Lagos and Abuja that the arrowheads of the petitions are former senior and junior officers many of whom were caught in the web of some policies which the former customs boss initiated.
One of the petitions dated October 16, 2008 and addressed to the chairman, House of Representatives committee on the Nigeria Customs Service advanced four reasons why the legislature must investigate the four- year tenure of Jacob Buba.
According to the seven-page petition which was sighted by our correspondent, the legislature needed to beam their search light on the activities of the Customs; being the second highest revenue earner for the government, because of the security implications of its statutory functions among other strategic things.
Specifically, the petitioners who have also sent a copy to the Senate accused Buba of alleged contract award fraud, presenting bloated nominal roll of Customs to the government, auction sales fraud and a host of other allegations.
The petitioners acknowledged that the responsibility rests on the shoulders of members of the House of Representatives to probe the Nigeria Customs Service under Buba since the Senate is already probing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
According to the petitioners, the ex-CG of Customs allegedly inflated the nominal roll of customs personnel which is supposed to be about 10,000. They claimed that while Buba held sway as the service’s boss, he was collecting money for 21,000 employees.
“Government had been allocating funds for salaries and other social services to take care of 21,000 officers. Up till late 2007, the regime still continued to enjoy funds to take acre of the same figure form the government while the population went below 10,000 officers and men due to deaths, disciplinary actions and down- sizing exercise”, the petitioners alleged and pointed out that there was no way that the staff strength of Customs could be 21,000 when no one has been employed since.
They also accused the former Customs boss of inflation of contract and appointing cronies to execute contracts in deviance of extant Federal Government guidelines.
Directing the lawmakers to a report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC),the petitioners at least 13 of such instances of alleged abuse of due process.
According to them, these include: the construction of Customs aircraft hanger at the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, Abuja at the cost of =N=768Million, construction of Customs airbase in Zaria at the cost of N480Million maintenance of the Customs 13-seater Dornier aircraft and award for another contract for the purchase of two helicopters for the Customs at about =N=1.68Billion, allegedly through an associate of the Chief of Staff to the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo through a third party.
Other allegations were that the former customs boss spent about =N=480Million on the construction of the Federal Capital command headquarters as well as officers’ barracks, construction of Customs Academy at Gwagwalada, Abuja at =N=780Million.
The petitioners also accused Buba of “illegal use of local purchase order (LPO) to circumvent condition conditions for awards of contract or to avoid board approval”, adding that about 10,000 LPOs had already being issued at the cost of =N=950,000 each.
On the allegation of auction sales fraud, the petitioners alleged further that “in 2006, the then minister of finance sent a circular to Mr J.G Buba to account for all the auction of both seized goods and containers all over the country valued at =187Billion, adding that in as much as the EFCC could arraign and secured conviction for the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, the same should be done in the case of the former Customs Comptroller General.
They listed other areas where the law makers should beam their search light as including activities of all customs warehouses all over the country, even as they alleged that the former Customs boss single handedly took decision on how to dispose of all the goods in the warehouses. This in addition to alleged revenue leakages through abuse of pre release of bulk cargoes, temporary importation release through which multinational companies dupe the federal government by evasion of duty.
The petitioners consequently demanded for a probe of Customs between 2004 and 2007.
Even though Shipping Position Weekly sources at the National Assembly confirmed receipt of the contentious document, all efforts to get the confirmation from the chairman of the House committee on Customs, Honourable Dogara were futile as his telephone line switched off.
However, attempts to seek clarification from the former Customs Comptroller General yielded little results. After refusing to answer our calls, Shipping Position Weekly decided to send him a text message.
His reply to enquiries about the petition was that we should send him the document to enable him to prepare a defence. “Send petition to me for comments”, he replied on Thursday last week.
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