More than one week after President Muhammadu Buhari announced the appointment of Colonel Hameed Ali (retired), as the substantive Comptroller-General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with immediate effect, the former military administrator is yet to surface at the Abuja headquarters of the service.
The development, according to sources, has rekindled another round of succession rumblings amongst the top echelons of the Para-military organization, following insinuations that the retired army officer may have turned down his appointment.
Col Ali was appointed on Thursday, August 27th along with Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service Kure Martin Abeshi, and two others. Their appointment was announced to commence with immediate effect.
While others have since taken their oath of allegiance and resumed at their respective offices, Col Ali’s failure to show up have been premised on speculations emanating from two schools of thought, one of which points at strong indications that all is not well between President Muhammadu Buhari and the newly appointed Comptroller-General of the NCS.
The other pundits opined that the presidency may have put the appointment on hold, following wild criticisms that greeted Mr. President’s appointment of a military retiree to head the service at a time the NCS is considered as the new toast of the World Customs Organization (WCO), which is now using the Nigerian experience in Customs Administration as benchmark for other West African nations.
Informed sources also hinted that the world body is not favorably disposed to the appointment, prompting its consideration to suspend Nigeria, unless government makes a rethink on the controversial appointment.
A source said Ali had surfaced at the State House villa last Friday and held meetings with the President behind closed-doors, but left without a hint as to details of the meeting. He is said not to have showed up at the customs headquarters in Zone 3, Abuja, up till the time of filling this report.
According to the source, Ali’s failure to assume office may have jolted the presidency, even as top party chieftains are said to have intensified pleas to the retired Amy Colonel to take up the job and save the President from the ensuing embarrassment.
Col Ali was General Buhari’s Chief of Staff for nearly five years, before the former won the last presidential election and is now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While the Presidency is yet to clarify why Col Ali is yet to assume office, the development is said to have opened another round of succession struggles amongst the serving Deputy-Controllers-General of Customs (DCGs) and a pocket of Assistant Controllers-General (ACGs) who had clandestinely agitated for the plum job following the voluntary retirement of the immediate past CGC, Abdullai Inde Dikko.
Ali’s appointment had caused ripples amongst industry stakeholders most of whom have expressed misgivings at the situation which they referred to as ‘a sad reminder of the days when government arbitrarily appointed a Veterinary doctor to head the service, and later appointed a serving Army General as his successor”.
Oppositions to the appointment had also faulted government’s decision on the position of the extant laws setting up the Nigerian Customs Service, with some stakeholders sitting section 3.11:1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 24 Vol. 89 of March 25, 2002.
They claimed such administrative publication states that the choice of the Comptroller-General of Customs shall be by appointment of a suitable Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs (General Duty), and not a non-professional, weather retired or serving military personnel.