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Nigerian Customs Diary And The Challenge Of Leadership In Nigeria

by on July 21, 2015
 

By John Ogbu

It may be Africa’s largest economy and the largest Black Nation in the world; Nigeria still grapples with self-inflicted quandaries. The Nation often gets to a tipping point, but manages to work herself out. Her people are some of the most intelligent mortals to walk the face of the earth, yet, they remain, her greatest albatross.

There is a “crab mentality,” that has held the nation and her people by the jugular, for as long as one can remember. Which explains why a nation blessed with abundant resources remains one of the least developed among the comity of nations.

It is therefore not surprising that some of her best brains constantly find solace in less than impressive jobs abroad, due to the resolve that, their potentials and contributions are blighted in the face of constant attacks, uncertainties and policy summersaults by successive governments, leadership and fellow citizens.

A case in point was the summary suspension of the immediate past Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank and now the Emir of Kano State, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, last year, which drew the ire of local and international observers on the account of a startling revelation, that the country’s Oil Company the NNPC, has defrauded the country to the tune of $ 20 Billion. Observers may differ in their opinions about his style, but they are unanimous in their submission that he sanitized Nigeria’s Banking Industry and should be celebrated rather than vilified on the account of this discovery. The allegation was alarming considering his standing, as the then Central Bank Chief, but the past administration, chose an infamous path of attacking the messenger and not the Message, and it paid direly for that slip. This only shows that Nigeria hardly celebrates her own, it rather seeks every opportunity to Pooh-pooh his or her achievements, and such experts in the Pull Him Down project, usually find willing partners in some sections of the Media.

With change in the administration, it appears there has been a spike in the activities of these rabble-rousers, employing varying tactics and underhand practices, while jostling for pieces of the pie.  More worrying is the fact that, performing government officials has become targets in their desperation. Nothing supports this thinking more than the recent falsehoods being circulated on the Nigerian Customs and the Leadership headed by Alh. Dikko Inde. The latest in this tirade being a story published by a poorly edited online platform, Pointblanknews.com. The story with the caption, “Don’t Inspect Some Containers, CG Custom Directs Officials,” is the height of irresponsible journalism. The story, published on the 14 July 2015; claims that Mr. Inde had issued a directive to Officials at the Apapa Port not to inspect certain imports from Europe. In saner climes, one would have been able to sue the publishers of this story and would no doubt smile to the Bank.

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This is most uncharitable, especially considering Mr. Dikko’s many achievements as the boss of the Nigerian Customs. It becomes important to remind those with selective amnesia, that under Mr. Dikko’s leadership, the Nigerian Customs became a case study for efficiency in Public Service.

It is generally believed that the condition of the Nigeria Customs Service before August 17th, 2009 before Dikko came to administer it was not a salutary one. The NCS had been one of those State institutions that were in a dire need of reform and, which had unfortunately, defied many past and attempts at transformation into an organization that would live up to the expectations of the founding fathers and its stakeholders.

 

If one of America’s largest collection of Black State Legislators, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, which has maintained the highest sense of fair judgment in accessing African Leaders in the past 35 years, would pass a resolution on the floor of the assembly for the recognition of Mr. Dikko Inde, for his contribution to the reforms in Nigerian Customs service; it is then the height of unpatriotism, when Nigerians would resort to seeking his destruction and that of all he has achieved.

The immediate past Minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who had performed the same function during the second term of Olusegun Obasanjo administration had lamented in her book: “Reforming the Unreformable,” how frustrated she was at the failed efforts of the Obasanjo administration at reforming the NCS, which had remained a Leviathan of sorts.

When the current comptroller-general assumed office in August of 2009, he took one hard look at the stagnating state of affairs of the Service and was convinced that what was needed was a programmatic approach by insightful managers who would work with a motivated staff force to bring about the envisaged results. For that purpose, he set out a six-point-agenda. Those who had known Dikko Inde from his younger days say that he was never distracted from his goals.

In the past the past five years, Mr. Dikko has remained single-mindedly faithful to the actualization of the points of that agenda and has surprised all and sundry as shown in a recent survey conducted by a team of reputable scholars from different Nigerian Institutions.

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A high profile independent team headed by Professor Sunday S. Ifah of University of Maiduguri recently conducted a detailed and world-class research on the assessment of Dikko’s six-point agenda by the stakeholders of the NCS. The result involved administering of questionnaires on 5,000 staff members of the Customs across all its formations across the country, and on its other stakeholders from outside the service. The research results which were turned in recently showed a near overwhelming consensus that the Service has faithfully lived up to its words as far as the agenda which it had set for itself was concerned.

According to the researchers, made up of four research supervisors and 150 research assistants, the study which will be “…of immense benefits to both the NCS and the federal government in their developmental activities…,” was conducted by polling officers and men of the Customs, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), The National Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAF) as well as other agencies involved in Customs duties. The team polled 5000 respondents and conducted interviews.  The survey results that came in shows that a preponderant percentage of stakeholders were satisfied that NCS Management under Dikko has largely lived up to expectation in the implementation of the different items of the six- point agenda.

On the issue of the promised improvement of welfare package for staff, 73.9 per cent of those polled were satisfied; 25.4 were not quite satisfied 0.7 did not express any opinion. On the issue of Integrity and moral rebirth in the service, while only 11 per cent were not satisfied with the progress that has been made in that direction, a whopping 85.5 per cent were satisfied, even as 3.5 per cent of the respondents did not have an opinion.

On the capacity building that has taken place since Dikko came to the office in 2009, 89.4 per cent of the polled stakeholders were satisfied with the work that has been done, while only 9.3 per cent were not satisfied leaving 9.3 per cent of the respondents as indifferent.

Directly linked to the issue of capacity building, the training and retraining which the different cadres of the Services benefited from were surveyed. While 79.3 per cent of the stakeholders expressed satisfied, 19.7 per cent believed that more needed to be done.

It is therefore baffling to think that someone who has labored in the past five years to build a brand, will suddenly turn around, to destroy it, by issuing directives that are clearly aimed at presenting the organization in a bad light. It is simply stupid to say that a man, who has fought all through his tenure to ensure that all banned products are kept out of the country, would be the one asking that the port be thrown open to smugglers.

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Another interesting part of Mr. Dikko’s reforms was the launch of Pre-arrival Assessment Report, PAAR, which was greeted with applause and pummels. Expectedly, PAAR was greeted with so much resistance, as it sought to block a lot of loop-holes and put more monies in the government coffers and those who were benefiting from the system, would not let that go without a fight. These elements, consisting of importers, government officials and Customs officials, may not have given up the fight. The change in administration may have presented another opportunity for them to launch attacks and they are not resting. Nothing explains this more that the recent hatchet jobs being carried out by their partners and collaborators in the media.

My charge to them is, a funny but instructive story of “a young man who is in the habit of rushing to the toilet, any time the pastor in his local assembly calls for an offering. When he died and went to haven, it was his turn to look at the records of his service and contribution in the vineyard of God on earth, and the angels brought out a bottle filled with Urine. He was informed that while others sowed hard work and made financial contributions to the work of God, he was always frequenting the toilet and sowing urine.” Moral of the story, “whatsoever a man sows, that he shall reap.” No one should be under any illusion that a position gotten on the altar of subterfuge, would last long enough for a reward!

 

About John Ogbu:

He is a driven health practitioner, with more than a passive concern about developments in Nigeria. He is a Member of the International Association For Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and a Fellow of the Certified Public Administrators of England and Wales, (FCPA).

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