By Stephen Ubanna
Until the tail end last April, there was no sign that the Nigeria Customs Service , NCS, Board headed by Kemi Adeosun, minister of Finance are likely going to meet any time soon to consider the last November promotion Examination result of officers and men of the Service .
This is because Adeosun had never considered it necessary to call for the meeting of the Board even when there are pressing Customs issues to discuss .This may be due to time constraint and official engagements both within and outside the country.
A s a prelude to the recent meeting, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, was said to have forwarded to her office the list of senior officers shortlisted for promotion for her sighting and consideration. The list of the successful senior officers sent to the minister was said to have been accompanied with a covering memo to show the urgency of the matter and for the Board to meet to consider the promotion result.
the minister was said to have signed the original copy of the result sheet sent to her without alteration, waiting for the time she would have opportunity to call for the Board meeting to consider it.
The officers were said to have become impatient over the delay in the release of the result as they mounted pressure on the Comptroller General to do so. They have their reason to do so. Their counterparts in the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, who took their own promotion Examination conducted almost at the same time by the Mike Okiro led Nigeria Police Service Commission, PSC, had seen their result as released by the PSC and the officers who were due for another promotion examination had done it and the result had been released by the Commission without delay.
The delay in the release of the promotion may have robed off on the aggrieved officers as it showed on the Service revenue collection in the first quarter of 2018. The apparent drop in revenue may have forced the Customs Comptroller general to swallow his pride to reconcile his differences with the minister to give her the opportunity to put the NCS senior officer promotion matter as one of her priorities . He may have won the ear of the minister by his attitudinal change.
The Customs boss renewed cordial relationship with the minister may have give him the confidence to speak with boldness whenever confronted on the issue that the promotion result t would be released in May, 2018 . He was however not precise on the exact day. He may have been careful to commit himself because the minister could decide to change her mind.
But hopes for the release of the long awaited a Customs promotion emerged a fortnight ago when information leaked out that the minister had reached out to Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, intimating of a Board meeting to consider the Customs promotion issue.
She was said to have directed him to liaise with the Secretary of the Board ensure that members get the notice for the meeting in her office on Thursday, May10, 2018. The agenda of the meeting : consideration of the senior Customs officers Novemember, 2017, promotion result and ratification of the appointment of the ranks of members of the Management team who had been functioning on acting capacity. the notice for the Board meeting was said to have been drafted and quickly sent out to the Board members to prepare their and for the meeting and the agenda to be discussed.
Insiders told the Magazine that the Customs Comptroller General, heaved a sigh of relief when the continued to assure him that the Board meeting would hold as scheduled. He has every reason to worry. This is because the minister could decide to call off the meeting if she has more important issues to attend to at the presidency.
Perhaps to prove to the Customs helmsman that the bulks stops on her table, she was said to have slated the meeting in her office instead of the Customs Boardroom, at the Customs Headquarters, on the agreed date, Thursday, May 10, 2018. A source told the Magazine that as early as 9.00 am, the Board members were seated in the minister’s waiting room , waiting to be ushered into her office for the meeting.
The Ali led Customs management was said to have recommended over 2,000 senior officers to the ministers to be promoted to various ranks in the Service, from Assistant Superintendents of Customs 11, Deputy Superintendents to Comptrollers.
. A source told the Magazine that when the list was finally released by the Customs Authorities to the Customs Commands several names in the original approved for promotion were missing.
From the rank of Assistant Superintendents 1, to Deputy Superintendents, 13 names were said to have developed wings and from Chief Superintendents of Customs to Assistant Comptrollers, three officers, ,regarded in Customs circles as very popular because of their work which shows everywhere in the Service were mysteriously removed.
the cabal may have substituted the names with their cronies ostensibly to demoralise them and put them in the bad book of the Comptroller General as failures. From the Assistant Comptrollers to Deputy Comptrollers rank about five names were said to have been knocked out by the cabal .
The Comptrollers list was also said to have been tampered with the substitution of six names, fueling speculation that there is a strong cabal at the Customs Headquarters , Finance, Administration, and Technical Services, FATS, Department who are still manipulating the system for a fee.
The Board may have considered the list which was before it containing 1, 997 names of some senior officers as recommended by the Customs Management to be promoted without comparing it with the ministerial list to ensure that no name had been substituted. The release of the promotion which ought to put smiles on the faces of the officers may have brought tears to many, which may lower their morale to do the job.
Given an insider information of the decision taken at the Thursday Customs Board first meeting at the minister’s office in Abuja, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs National Public Relations officer disclosed that the Board approved the promotion of 1, 997 senior officers. The promotion , according to him was based on ”cumulative scores of annual valuation, written examination, oral interview, seniority and availability of vacancies”.
The break down shows that 49 Deputy Comptrollers scaled the hurdle to be promoted to the enviable rank of Comptrollers, 52 Assistant Comptrollers made it to the Deputy Comptrollers list while 33 Chief Superintendent got the Assistant Comptroller’s rank, leaving hundreds of them weeping. Attah, confirmed that Superintendents made it to the Chief Superintendent of Customs list and 372 Deputy Superintendents were moved to the Superintendents rank. Also promoted by the Customs Board on the recommendation of the management wer 452 Assistant Superintendents 1 to Deputy Superintendents but no officer made it to the Assistant Superintendent 1 rank. The Customs Spokesman also said that 380 Customs Inspectors were promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Customs 11.
The support Staff were not left out as they also benefitted from the promotion exercise by producing five Comptrollers,, eight Deputy Comptrollers and nine Assistant Comptrollers, This is in addition to nine Chief Superintendents, 19 Superintendents, 15 Deputy Superintendents, 15 Assistant Superintendents 11 and1, 1 and 79 respectively.
A senior Customs officer who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity claimed that the Comptroller General may not have known that the original list of officers promoted in all the cadres promoted had been edited because of his trust on the officers around.
the aggrieved officer wants Adeosun, the minister of Finance to intervene by calling for the Customs list that was approved at the Board to compare it with the original list sent to her with a covering memo by Ali, the Comptroller General for approval about bout seven months ago.
the plot for the release of the senior officers promotion was said to have started last March, when Ali released the list of the promotion of 775 junior officers to various ranks. many believe that he released the junior officers promotion because it was within his powers to do so.
For the newly promoted senior Customs officers , the Customs boss was said to have told them to see it as a ”call to higher duties”, He further charged them to” commit themselves to the course of service delivery and build on the gains of the on- going reforms in the Service’ How that be achieved remain to be seen.