Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.), newly appointed Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, took decisive steps last year in pursuit of the objective for his appointment. The ability of government to engage stimulatory spending to steer the economy out of recession is severely hindered by revenue shortage. In the face of the drop in crude oil revenue, growing internally generated revenue has become a critical need and the Customs department has a central role in accomplishing that.
That central role isn’t likely to be accomplished in an atmosphere of corruption and inefficiency and so a new and undefiled spirit is called for in the leadership of Nigeria Customs Service. Curiously finding no career customs official suitable for the post, Ali is the man that the President trusted to dress up the Customs Service and deliver maximum results.
The trust and confidence reposed on him have reasons that are rooted on tested character and established integrity. The man is widely reputed to be a Spartan anti-corruption crusader, even more stringent and stern than the President himself. He insists on administering punishment punitive enough to deter others from crime. His training in criminology where he holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees has shaped his lifestyle to stand above board.
Ali was a prominent figure during the military era and he retired from the army after holding a number of critical positions without any character stain or spot of corruption. The new Customs boss has a lifestyle of contentment – a poultry farmer after his retirement that still drives a 504 Peugeot saloon car.
Ali’s character of incorruptible values must have been further proven with his closeness to the President as the manager of his campaign funds and later on his chief of staff. Ali’s mission is clearly to carry the President’s anti corruption crusade to the Nigerian Customs Service and to report victory.
He has given every indication that he clearly understands the mandate, which in his words is “go to Customs, reform Customs, restructure Customs and increase the revenue generation, simple”. He has embarked upon the reforms and re-structuring aimed at enhancing revenue generating capacity and strengthening the Service itself.
Apparently, Ali isn’t going to let anybody stand between him and the express mandate of the President. Yet he has demonstrated that he has come to provide effective leadership by first extending his hand of cooperation to the Customs management to work with him to deliver on the mandate. That is the pleasant side of the coin. The other side of it is the bombshell: corrupt customs officers will be dismissed, prosecuted and sent to jail under Ali’s new regime of zero tolerance for corruption.
Swinging into decisive actions, Ali is beaming the greatest searchlight ever on the Nigeria Customs Service. He has ordered the filing of weekly reports on all proven cases of false declarations, deliberate misapplication of tariff, undervaluation, concealment and seizures with full compliments of action taken to his office. He has matched responsibility with authority by requiring that customs area controllers, heads of units and departments will now be accountable for infractions in their areas of operations.
Ali’s restructuring process has brought about the retirement of some members of the management team and the appointment of a new team. This is followed by a major redeployment exercise aimed at strengthening operations to meet the challenges ahead. He set before the new management team the same goal the President set for him. “We must deliver on our mandate and work towards making 2016 the best year in the Nigeria Customs Service”, he charged them.
With that, Buhari’s style of leadership by example has swept through the Nigeria Customs Service. This has provided the right framework for officers and staff of the Service to key in towards the achievement of the mandate. Ali has succeeded in injecting a new spirit of loyalty and dedication to the course of nation building in the Nigeria Customs Service – the same kind of spirit that is needed to sweep through the entire public service.
The changes have equally ushered in the atmosphere for Ali to strengthen the Customs Service, which is part of his mission. He has expressed his commitment to enhance staff welfare as forcefully as he has emphasized effectiveness in revenue collection. He understands that the key for maximum service delivery is adequate motivation of the workforce.
He has assured of training and re-training of officers and men in order to ensure strict application of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA). He has also promised to address all anomalies manifest in recruitment, training, posting, and promotion of officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Ali is recognised as one of the top 10 CEOs of the year, 2016 by Top 10 Magazine for his restructuring effort that has upheld integrity in the Nigeria Customs Service in the last one year.