Lack of customs board meetings breeds confusion, anxiety in NCS

• COVID-19 behind delayed meeting ― Spokesman

The inability of the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to meet since the third quarter of 2020 is gradually breeding confusion and anxiety among the rank and file of the Service due to the fact that vacant positions in the Customs management which can only be filled by the Board, have not been filled.

Investigations by Tribune Online revealed that the appointment of some of the Assistant/Deputy Comptroller Generals is said to have been delayed primarily due to the inability of the Customs Board to convene a formal meeting to deliberate and take decisions on the existing positions.

The Customs Spokesman, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, who spoke to our correspondent on this issue, confirmed the delay which he said was not the fault of the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, but due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

He explained that it was beyond the control of the CGC alone to fill these vacant positions as it is the powers of the Customs Board to make such decisions.

Attah said due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other intervening issues, the Board has not been able to sit.

However, it was gathered that this delay in the meeting of the Board to consider the issues of promotions and appointments into the management team of the Customs has bred unhealthy speculations and confusion among officers from the South-Eastern part of the country since the retirement of DCG Enforcement & Inspection (E&I), Chidi Augustine.

It was being speculated that the delay was to give some senior officers already on the management cadre from a certain section of the country undue advantage over their counterparts whose promotion and subsequent appointments into the top echelon of the service are still being delayed.

“It is important to note that the hierarchical appointments that formed the different positions of Customs management offices are very crucial as it is expected to follow due process and importantly, a must to capture the six geo-political zones”, a knowledgeable source in Customs told our Correspondent.

Presently, top officers in acting capacities are many due to vacant positions, especially at the Deputy Comptroller General of Customs (DCG) levels.

Our source pointed out what is playing out at the Investigation, Enforcement and Inspection (IE&I) department of the Customs which presently has no Deputy Comptroller General (DCG) of Customs in place since the disengagement of the immediate past DCG, Chidi Augustine.

Our source also revealed that since DCG Chidi Augustine retired, Compt. U. G. Mohammed, who is an Acting Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, has been functioning as the de facto Deputy Comptroller General (DCG), calling the shots, while there are reports of his overbearing influence on the Enforcement Commands and units of the Customs nationwide.

“It is however wise to act fast in the regards of filling these vacant positions with the appropriate officers before the Service would be overwhelmed by reports of sectionalism, tribalism, or marginalisation, speculation that seems to be already gaining ground.

“The present situation where Comptroller U. G. Mohammed Superintends over a highly sensitive Enforcement Department as an Assistant Comptroller General as well as Deputy Comptroller General can only breed despotic tendencies, and tool for intimidation against subordinates which will grant him the enormous power and influence such unfettered authority brings,” our source added.

However, Attah declared that the delay was neither deliberate nor targetted at anyone as it is being wrongly speculated.

He explained that the delay affected everyone who is eagerly waiting for the Board to sit to approve their elevation to the next rank, including those in the acting capacity.

”This delay has also affected the confirmation of those who are in the acting capacity to get confirmation. Do you think they will be happy?

”It is when something happened and you are discriminated against, that is when you can then complain, but what do you do when it doesn’t happen because of a certain situation?” Attah queried.

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Lack of customs board meetings breeds confusion, anxiety in NCS

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