- Buhari may confirm Atte new CG
Former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who was last week Thursday appointed the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has rejected the appointment and relocated to his house in Kaduna, Nigerian Pilot can authoritatively report.
A reliable source in the presidency, informed this newspaper that Ali conveyed his rejection of the offer on Tuesday at a meeting he had with President Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
He was said not to be pleased with the offer as he had wanted to be retained as Buhari’s Chief of Staff, an office he has occupied in the last five years. Another reason he gave was the criticism that has greeted the announcement of his appointment since it was made. It will be recalled that since the announcement last week Thursday, the retired military police officer has not resumed at his new office, fueling speculations that he had rejected the offer.
President Buhari was also said to have been told by Ali that being a creation of the law, issues of appointment “must follow the enabling Act.”
Accordingly, he was said to have told Buhari that he would decline the appointment, especially given the fact of the country’s democracy, as he would not want to be a sole administrator in a purely civilian regime. In addition, it was equally gathered that the World Customs Organization, WCO, the body that oversees the customs service worldwide, had written to President Buhari, advising against appointing a non-customs official to head the NCS.
They were said to have drawn the president’s attention to the consequences it could bring to Nigeria, including the country losing its membership of the exalted global body.
Following Ali’s rejection of the appointment, President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have accepted the advice by his legal team to do the needful by confirming the most senior Deputy Comptroller-General, Dr. John Atte, who has been acting in that capacity since the former occupant, Inde Dikko left as substantive CG of Customs. The announcement, according to our sources, would be made before the end of this week by the Presidency.
Buhari was said to have been advised that, “Being a paramilitary agency, bringing somebody outside the Service to head the Customs would cause chaos and avoidable problems for the government.
“He was told that if the Customs Act is silent on the mode of succession as CG, the law allows him to check what enabling law of similar agencies of government say. And from the Police and Civil Defence Acts, it was clear that in case of any vacancy, the next most senior officer takes charge,” said a top official inside the presidency, who stated that President Buhari was told that Nigeria is no longer in a military dispensation that would allow for a sole administratorship of the Customs.”
Since the announcement of the appointment of Hameed Ali as CG, there has been animated suspense inside the Zone 3, Wuse Headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, as officers of the Service allegedly rejected the appointment as successor to immediate past Comptroller-General, CG Abdullahi Inde Dikko.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last week Thursday announced the retired soldier as the new CG Customs among other sensitive appointments.
The development immediately elicited worries within the rank and file of the NCS across the country, with most of them querying the appointment of a “non-career” official to head the place.
But while the mooted agitation was on, the presidency was to clarify issues by stating that Ali’s mission to NCS was to serve as Sole Administrator of the Service.
But maritime professionals were quick to point out that the error in Ali’s appointment would bring nepotism to the service against Buahri’s avowed fight for corruption.
For instance, there is a time-honoured rule of seniority in the Customs Service, which Ali’s appointment negates as there are qualified Deputy Comptrollers-General to replace Dikko, with Dr. John Atte as the most senior, giving other DCG’s four years gap.
However, unlike all other appointments made by Buhari, stakeholders and the Customs community have refused to be intimidated into accepting the President’s choice of Ali for the Service.
Reacting to speculations that Col. Ali may have been re-designated Sole Administrator, a former Comptroller-General, who prayed for anonymity, said such an action was unconstitutional and a total breach of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA). By provisions of Section 3.11:1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 24. Vol. 89 of 25th March, 2002, the choice of Comptroller-General shall be by appointment of a suitable Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG).
According to him, “regardless of this provision, Buhari’s decision to appoint Ali as Comptroller-General has resulted in creating confusion and uneasiness in the Service.
“The President is empowered by the Constitution which allows him to appoint anybody to help him exercise his executive powers, however, this should not be to the detriment of professionalism and respect for order,” he said.