Nigeria Customs Service: Too Many Cooks…!
Ordinarily, one should not be bordered about last week’s formation of a task force to reform the Nigeria Customs Service, one should just key into the reason that was given by the minister of finance to the effect that the goals of the reform of the Customs were critical to the attainment of the government’s seven point agenda and in line with the realisation of vision 20:2020.
The Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigeria Customs Service is headed by Dr Bello Mohammed who was the sixth chief executive of the same Service between 1988 and 1994. Another member of the three- man body is Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Mustapha who also served as the eight Customs boss between 1999. The third member is Mr Daniel Banjo.
The minister mandated the task force to reorganise and transform the Service into a modern institution that is capable of enhancing revenue generation, Facilitating trade and curbing smuggling and also check importation of illegal arms within two years.
The emergence of Brigadier General Samuel Ango (retd) in 1994 to succeed Dr Bello Mohammed as the Sole Administrator of Nigeria Customs Service was on account of perceived decay (in the Customs) on the part of the –then military government and the need to reorganise the Service.
Gen. Ango was succeeded by Alhaji Ahmed Mustapha. As soon as he filed notice of retirement, the then-minister of finance, Mrs Esther Nenadi Usman was made the chairman of a task force on customs reforms. The group was responsible for the mass retirement of several officers and the infamous accelerated promotions of some officers. The reform also led to the emergence of Elder Jacob Gyang Buba as the new Comptroller General.
From the above, it is obvious that the present attempt to reform Customs is the second since 2003, a development which tends to question the rationale behind the frequent rush to reform the Service.
Some questions are also begging for answers: why are other agencies and paramilitary bodies not subjected to the frequent reforms as the Nigeria Customs Service?, if the Nenadi Usman body could not midwife a better Customs after all the assurances, what is the guarantee that the Dr Mohammed’s task force can do it?, is the government creating a parallel management for the Service by giving the task force up to two years?. Why not doubting the integrity of the “three wise men”, it is very doubtful if anything different from the ordinary can be achieved with the current effort.
For Dr Bernard Shaw Nwadialo who was recently grudgingly confirmed as the substantive Comptroller General of Customs and who is expected to retire in a few months, it may no longer be a tea party. Having to work under the prying eyes of a task force whose tenure is longer than that of the Comptroller General can not be a comfortable arrangement.
As much as the integrity and personalities of the former Customs bosses who are now responsible for cleansing the service is not in doubt, it is not a particularly comfortable arrangement for them to work for two years.
It also curious that the task force is coming barely two weeks to the commencement of the much-expected probe which the House of Representatives is spearheading.
All these can simply spread the impression that government (especially, executive and legislature) are interested in ‘heating-up’ the Nigeria Customs Service.