His appointment on August 27, 2015, as the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service by President Muhammadu Buhari was greeted with controversy, so was his confirmation as he bluntly refused to wear the Customs uniform. Hameed Ali is a retired colonel of the Nigerian Army who sees everything from his personal perspective not bothering what others think of the situation, a stand that often attracts pungent public odium to his personality. As a trained military officer, he strongly believes in first aiming at objects before shooting not considering any other opinion. In other words, Ali is a leader who makes up his mind based on what his personal mirror tells him.
As the customs leader, Ali cannot fathom why he should be subject to a woman because she is the supervisory minister under whom the custom service is based. From one controversy to another, from one face-off with members of the National Assembly to in-fighting among his staff. Ali was not deterred, because what he saw confronting him was corruption that was endemic. Ali saw an organisation, well trained, with better renumeration but milking the revenue of the country, because it was passing through their doorway. What he saw in the mirror was only known to him and the person who appointed him. When he started implementing what he saw in the mirror, Ali was confident with the image he saw in the mirror, an image of greatness and robust revenue for the country.
The International Customs Day celebration that took place on January 26, is a day when customs worldwide come together to commemorate the day. The occasion affords the customs the opportunity to reflect on their activities in the previous year. They also recognise those whose exceptional contributions have helped the service to achieve its statutory responsibility as well as consider their priorities in the current year.
Great leaders don’t succumb to pressure of any kind. Like Ali, it is what he sees in the mirror that determines his vision. The mirror gives a clear vision of what he wants to see and do. As a trained officer, he is passionate about protection of our national security and economy in the discharge of his functions.
In 2019, the NCS, under Ali raked in N1.34 trillion as revenue, exceeding the N937 billion target of the Federal Government by N404 billion.
Mirrors don’t lie. Ali saw an underutilised workforce in an organisation and believed in their ability. He psyched them into being patriotic and trustworthy. The seizure of prohibited articles of trade, comprising food, counterfeit and other items harmful to our environment, valued at N32.83 billion during 4,599 incidents in 2019, is another remarkable contribution of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Also worthy of note is the interception of illicit cash through airports and trade in endangered species recorded recently.
Moreover, the ongoing border drill, in collaboration with other security agencies, is renewing opportunities that exist within the agricultural sector. Farmers are enjoying unprecedented patronage, farms are being expanded and job opportunities being provided.
It is also remarkable that the recent 15 pace improvement in Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s ease of doing business for 2019, from 146 to 131 is in part attributed to the endeavours in facilitating the speedy release of goods for compliant trade. This is considerably significant in enhancing the prosperity of our citizen. These are the positive results that Ali saw in the mirror.
These commendable feats have placed customs on a pedestal as the hen that lays the golden egg, which is the most sought-after organisation by government. It is expected that a sizable percentage of the collected revenue be marked for the welfare of the NCS personnel. Despite the success story, Ali still urged his men “to work assiduously towards actualising the true message and intentions of the World Customs Organization as envisioned in the theme: ‘Customs Fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and Planet.’
“I assure you that our drive towards free, safe and secure movement of goods and persons across our borders will be sustained for the benefit of all.”
Insecurity: Encourage, not sack, service chiefs (2)
These security chiefs are Nigerians, and demonising them will not yield any benefit for the country.
We should not demoralise them, as this would have serious negative consequences on the troops in the war zone. Yes, a few policies may have been wrongly enacted, that makes them human and not infallible. Nevertheless, they can be encouraged to achieve better security for the country.
One of such policies is the granting of amnesty to terrorists, terrorists whose minds are twisted, who have killed and soaked their weapons in the blood of innocent Nigerians. Are these the type of criminals that government ought to grant amnesty? To many right-thinking people, government erred in this action. This happened at a time when Boko Haram, under Abubakar Shekau, stretched out its hands of fellowship and brotherliness to another global terrorist group by aligning with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (lSIS). Even after the affiliation, the military was not sleeping, it went after the Boko Haram leader Shakau and brought him down in a raid that received world acclaim; unfortunately, Nigerians were even sceptical, doubting the authenticity of the news. It was a different scenario when American President Donald Trump announced on October 27, 2019, that his troops had brought down the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose real name was Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri. Americans jubilated, prayed and wished their soldiers well.
By respecting our military, we could further help to boost the morale of the troops. Moreover, when the President, as a retired general, appointed these service chiefs, the Constitution empowered him to do so. He knew what caliber of security leaders would help him actualise his dream to stop the excesses of the Boko Haram sect. To a reasonable extent, the assignment had been carried out successfully. The scenario isn’t what it used to be. Life has fully returned to the North-East. Commerce is booming, schools have reopened and religious activities are going on. The pockets of attacks by some members of the sect should not be misunderstood to mean that the security situation in the North-East has broken down the way some politicians are presently trumpeting in the National Assembly.
Such outbursts are unnecessary. One expects these same politicians who have tap roots in these communities to help reorientate the youths by cautioning them about the danger of getting recruited by these evil sects. Also, one had expected the National Orientation Agency to be at the forefront of this crusade. Once the source for the work force is cut off, it would mark the end of the sect. Since the President still has confidence in his service chiefs, all that Nigerians should do is to help them to further succeed.