AS the reforms initiated by the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) continue to take root, the Apapa Area Command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has started to break new ground and has been earning laurels in recognition of its efforts. Just few weeks after the Command received the World Customs Organisation Award for Excellence from the CGC during the 2019 International Customs Day celebration in Abuja, Comptroller Abubakar Bashir, who heads the Command, has been recognised as the 2018 Man of the Year by the Maritime Media Limited, publishers of Shipping World magazine.
The award presentation ceremony took place last Wednesday in Lagos. Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Maritime Media Limited, Elder Asu Beks, said that Bashir was nominated for the prestigious award on account of his integrity and the outstanding performance of the Command under his watch.
His words: “We are gathered here today to honour a man who has proven that he is incorruptible. We are here to honour an officer and a gentleman. We are here today to honour a role model for the NCS. We are here to honour a man who believes that man cannot live by bread alone; that a good name is more profound than a million loaves of bread. Those of us who have followed Bashir over the years are not in any way surprised by this feat.
“As a team player and one who is stickler for due process, the rejection of $420,000 last year only goes to prove his undying passion for an uncommon patriotism for his fatherland. By this singular act, Bashir has made the CGC proud of the Service and that his campaign on zero tolerance for corruption has not fallen on deaf ears. This award should serve as a stimulant for dedication and selfless service to your fatherland.”
It could be recalled that in November last year, Bashir rejected a bribe of $420,000 from some scrupulous importers of seized 40-foot containers loaded with tramadol and other drugs from India worth over N7.3 billion. The importers had wanted Bashir to take the bribe and effect the release of just one container out of the 40 seized containers but he rebuffed the offer and insisted on doing his job professionally. The action attracted commendation from maritime stakeholders and other industry watchers many of who described it as an extra-ordinary display of honesty and integrity.
Sunday Sun, however, learnt that Bashir has always toed the path of professionalism in the discharge of his duties since joining the Service in 1987 and has received many awards for his meritorious services. One of such awards, it was gathered, was the CGC’s Award of Merit on Customs Duty Recovery, which was conferred on him at the CGC conference in Calabar, Cross River State, in 2004. Thus, the 2018 Man of the Year Award from Maritime Media Limited stands an additional feather to his cap.
Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, NCS, Assistant Comptroller General K. C. Ekekezie, who was present at the event, praised the management of the organisation for the honour done to one her officers.
She said: “Last year when some members of the press visited us at the zonal headquarters, I thanked them for what some of us use to term as bad press; because for me, these are the things that ginger us. They make us work harder and improve on those areas we are lacking on. People have always termed Customs as corrupt; that is the general illusion out there. But a Customs officer has proven that it is no more like that and that is why we are here today. It is not easy for someone to reject such money, after all how much is his salary. So, for him to see such money and show proof that this was what happened and he rejected it, I think he deserves this recognition. I want to specially thank the media for doing this. We are very grateful. You are the ones that usually keep us on the track. If we are not doing what we are supposed to do, it usually comes from the press. But when we do it well, you will hear them hailing you to the high heaven like they have done today. The CGC is going to see this and I can assure that he will be very proud of one of his officers who has done exactly what he has been preaching — reforms, restructure, revenue.”
Ekekezie also thanked officers and men of the Command for their diligence in the discharge of their duties.
The honouree, in his acceptance speech, said he was happy to be honoured by the organisation, saying the award would spur him to do more for the country.
“It is my pleasure to have all of you around today specifically to give me this honour. I will tell you that I wouldn’t have the kind of word that will specify or measure my level of happiness. Why I am saying this is because we have come to a situation in Nigeria where when you see somebody being recognised, the next think you have in mind is that there is something underground or probably that person is pursuing one objective somewhere. But I can assure you that this one is real. This is real! The fact that the entire zonal office, Zone A, which I think is the most functional zone in our service is here, led by the ACG, is something that should be reckoned with. I promise that whatever has been said about what we do professionally we will do even more going forward,” Bashir said.