Key stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed mixed feelings over the appointment of a retired Nigerian Army colonel as the Comptroller General, CG, of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
Some of them said Ali’s appointment was a welcome development while others expressed disappointment over the President’s choice.
Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin said there was nothing wrong with having a retired colonel as the CG if officers would support and help him deliver on his mandate.
He advised that the new Customs boss to be concerned about facilitating trade without laying too much emphasis on revenue generation while also focusing on improving Customs processes with regard to information technology.
“What have we gained from those who are insiders? Have they succeeded in the single window project? If we have an insider who comes to deliver zero, is it better? We need performance and those who will focus on different areas and not just a single area of generating revenue.
“This is not the first time a military man is occupying that position. At this point in time, stakeholders are worried about processes not about personality. Over the years, what has been the focus of the personalities appointed? If he can deliver why not, revenue generation should be a mandate but not the entire focus,” Folarin said.
On his part, President of Shippers Association of Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol said Buhari’s choice should be respected as he has the right to appoint whom he deems fit as Customs Comptroller General but the National Publicity Secretary, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto expressed disappointment over the appointment of Ibrahim Ali as the new customs boss, describing it as a backward step.
“With this appointment, we are going 1,000 steps backward. Are they saying that there are no officers capable of being appointed as customs CG even among the Deputy Comptroller Generals or Comptrollers? If you look at the profile of this man, he is the one who sacked over 30, 000 workers as an administrator in Kaduna.
“So, whoever must have advised the President has not helped us at all. It is most unfortunate that they are taking us back to the military era. How will the international community see us? This man does not know anything about trade facilitation or customs operation,” he said.
Deputy National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Barrister Fred Akokhia also expressed reservations about the appointment.
He said, “How will a military man, who has left service for over 20 years, be asked to come and head a paramilitary agency like customs?
“They appointed a military officer sometime ago but it did not work. So to me, I don’t think this decision was well thought out.”
The new Customs Comptroller General was born on January 15, 1955. He holds Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Criminology.
He was the military administrator of Kaduna State, Nigeria (August 1996 – August 1998) during the military regime of late General Sani Abacha. He is married to a wife and has four children.
As military administrator, he sacked about 30,000 striking civil servants in Kaduna State in October 1997 and ordered the detention of 18 local government chairmen. A journalist who reported the sackings was allegedly arrested, severely beaten, then taken to the Government House and further tortured. The story published in Tempo Magazine was entitled “Goodbye Justice”. The story was later discredited and proven to be false.
After retirement, he became Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a northern lobbying group, and a supporter of Major General Muhammadu Buhari in his bid to run for president.
In June 2006, Ali stated that the North would regain the presidency in 2007. He supported Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s comments to the effect that President Olusegun Obasanjo would honour his pledge to vacate office in 2007. He was the Chief of Staff to Buhari before Buhari’s emergence as Nigeria’s President.