The recent appointment of Dr Bernard – Shaw Nwadialo as the new acting Comptroller General of Customs makes him the 11th to head the Service that is, since independence and the second to be appointed in an acting capacity.
His appointment on January 8, 2009 ended speculations as to whether the Federal Government would extend the tenure of his predecessor, Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed; having reached the mandatory retirement point – by age and by years of service.
For those who know the Nigeria Customs Service well enough, events predating the emergence of Nwadialo as the new Customs boss were quite typical and usual. Each time a serving Comptroller General is about to be removed or about to leave office voluntarily, the battle for succession becomes almost a “free for all”, most times rubbing off negatively on the service.
Evidences abound to the effect that the emergence of Veterinary Dr Bello Mohammed in 1988 as the sixth Customs boss was on account of the fierce battle for succession from within the service. The appointment of his successor; Brig. General SOG Ango in 1994 as the Sole Administrator also came about as result of the intense fight between top officers as to who should succeed Dr Mohammed.
The traditional fight also continued immediately news filtered out that Brig. Gen. Ango was to be removed. Eventually Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Mustapha emerged as the eight Customs Comptroller General. He served between 1999 and 2003.
Because, the Federal Government was not quite prepared for his exit, it had problems appointing a substantive successor. This led to the interregnum of some months during which Deputy Comptroller General Tayo Ogungbemile stood in as the acting Comptroller General.
Ogiungbemile could not hold forth for long as he was swept off to pave the way for the emergence of Elder Jacob Gyang Buba as the substantive Comptroller General between 2004 and 2008. His successor was Hamman Bello Ahmed whose exit made it possible for Dr Bernard-Shaw Nwadialo to be appointed as acting Comptroller General.
The voluntary retirement of Aliyu Mustapha was unexpected and was said to have been reluctantly accepted by the government in 2003, so one may excuse the appointment of an acting Comptroller General. The same can not be said of the retirement of Hamman Bello Ahmed who government knew to have only a few months left, so appointing a successor to him should not have been a problem.
Hamman was appointed as
substantive Customs Comptroller General, even though it was known that he had only a few months left. He eventually left office and Dr Nwadialo who also has a few months left was appointed, albeit in acting capacity.
There a few questions to be asked here: one is that if government appointed and promoted Jacob Gyang Buba as substantive Customs CG from the rank of an assistant comptroller general (ACG), and if government appointed and promoted Hamman Bello Ahmed to the rank of CG, Customs from the rank of ACG why has the same government refused to confirm DCG, Dr Bernard- Shaw Nwadialo as Customs Comptroller General.
When asked recently by the media in Lagos why he was till wearing the old rank of a DCG, the acting CG responded this way “I have talked to a lot of people including the Police and they asked me why I have not been wearing the new rank, but, I don’t want to go into all that. I am the acting Comptroller General of Customs as of now; it may change tomorrow if the government wishes to do that……”
The danger in appointments such as this; especially in a para-regimental body such as Customs is that until a substantive head is appointed, the person who is acting does not have much of a say; he is a mere ceremonial head.
And while that is going on, the service suffers the consequences of a powerless boss, a weak and mutually suspicious management team and a failing agency.
The Federal Government has no reason other that the infamous zoning system for not promoting and confirming Dr Nwadialo as the substantive Customs Comptroller General.