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‘Ethnic cleansing’ at Nigeria Customs?

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Nigerian-CustomsRETIRED Col Hamid Ibrahim Ali, who took over as Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in a very controversial circumstance, is progressing in error. The anomalies his policies are perpetrating in the Nigeria Customs are unhealthy. Col Ali was once a military administrator of Kaduna State (August 1996 to August 1998). Since his retirement, he has been politically active and fought to return Muhammadu Buhari as President. He was in charge of the President’s recent presidential campaign funds and later became his Chief of Staff before his appointment as head of the Nigeria Customs. No doubt, he is the President’s confidant.

The criminologist and poultry farmer was also the Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) in which capacity he represented the Arewa Consultative Forum at the Oputa Panel and was its presenter-in-chief when the Ohanaeze Ndigbo made its case against the Nigerian Civil War. Col. Ali’s appointment as Comptroller-General of Customs was greeted with controversy. It was about the first time a non-career officer is heading the Customs Service. Of greater concern is his approach to issues, which led to the mass resignation of all the Deputy Comptrollers General (DCGs) in one day. This, too, was as unprecedented as it was controversial.

The appointments and promotions he made following the said mass resignation are controversial, prompting many to ask if his mission to the Customs Service is to see the South East officers out of the Service; as the slots traditionally reserved for the South East zone were shared out to other zones – a critical social injustice. There is an exclusion and marginalisation of the South East in the 2015 Nigeria Customs Service appointments/promotions for the management cadre. Unlike what obtained in the past, each zone gets, on the average, four slots for Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) cadre and one DCG. In the present promotions/appointments, while the other five zones in the country retained their number of slots or got more, South East got nothing save one DCG, whereas the zone got four ACGs in the 2014 appointments/promotions and something similar in the previous ones. The distribution of the 2014 appointments/promotions reflected the tradition and adherence to Federal Character at Customs but now thrown overboard.

The distribution in the Comptrollers’ cadre is pathetic, as the South East was nearly completely left out also. North West alone got 25 slots as against four by the South East. Other zones also got relatively the lion’s share compared to the South East. Question is: on what basis were these promotions done and what is the justification for the bizarre disparity between the other zones and South East, to the point where a zone would get 25 Comptrollers and South East only four?  For the avoidance of doubt, here it is: SE 4, SS 11, SW 10, NC 18, NE 26 and NW 25.

Nigeria Customs Service is vital to revenue generation in Nigeria. And in this era where the revenue of the country is fast dwindling, it is only necessary that the service be allowed to enjoy the requisite peace and cooperation. A situation where one zone is feeling that they are being deliberately excluded from the management cadre can only breed angst and frustration.

Injustice to one is an injustice to all. Social justice has to be given its due premium in Nigeria if the country will gain the needed unity and make progress at development. Social psychological researches on work and wellbeing of workers have clearly shown that the surest way to destroying any organisation is to have different sets of rules/rewards for the different workers in the same organisation. The arbitrariness obtainable in the military era hardly suffices in a democratic dispensation. If the strange policy of exclusion introduced in the Customs is allowed to stand, Customs officers of South East extraction are being told in no uncertain terms that they cannot aspire to certain ranks or become the Comptroller General of that Service. This is wrong.

The President needs to get the Customs boss to respect and restore the rights of the excluded South East zone and work for greater harmony with the officers and men of the Service, whose confidence he needs in order to succeed. President Muhammadu Buhari has himself demonstrated great commitment to rule of law and constitutionalism, and against his wishes and beliefs, extended cabinet ranks to all the 37 ministers. Buhari, too, is a retired military officer and could have insisted on having ministers without portfolios and reap the acrimony it would generate. Col. Ali needs to emulate President Buhari. In the realm of psychology, perception is everything. The nation has to manage the growing feeling of alienation both in the North and South Nigeria. Deliberate efforts must be made to address the sources of such alienations and not stoking them, as is now happening in the Customs. And only inclusive policies can promote amity and progress of Nigeria, not exclusionism.

• Mefor is an Abuja-based forensic psychologist and journalist



12 Comments
  • bobo

    69 to the north and only 25 to the south? Hmm! Naija!!!

    • bornne

      That is what SW wants, as long as they received one more than the igbo they are very contented even if they are loosing 100. Look at the number of states, the three major tribes Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, have 15, 6, 5 states respectively. And 300, 130. 90 local governments in this same order. Yet the colonial masters recorded these three tribes as major tribes having more or less equal population. But hausa/fulani have absolute control of 13 NE, NW states and majority control in 2 NC states, making it 15 states about 300 local government councils under its control.While SW have 6 states and 130 local governments under its control and SE 5 states and 90 local governments under its control. So how could have colonial masters called yoruba at 6 states and Igbo at 5 states major tribes if Hausa/Fulani at 15 states was also called major? And we all know the implications of this lopsidedness in state and local government allocations in favor of Hausa/fulani, 15 is neither equal to 6, nor equal to 5. If the ratio 15;6:5 represent three major tribes, then the ratio 15:6:5:4:3:2:1…300n-tribes would logically represent n number of major tribes which in nigeria case would be 300 major tribes. Because if Igbo at 5, yoruba at 6, are major tribes as do Hausa/Fulani at 15, then Ijaw, edo, itsekiri and all ethnic groups at 3, 2,1…300n-tribes would all be called major tribes

      The colonial masters were right in describing, Hausa/fulani, Yoruba, igbo as major tribes but what changed is the participation of the country by Hausa/fulani military juntas that made Hausa/Fulani a super major ethnic group over Igbo and over yoruba. But Yorubas seem not to care because they have one more states and few more local governments over Igbo. it seem yoruba would accept any thing as long as it appears to it that Igbo is worse-off.

    • AA

      Na so na.

  • Jonathan

    “on what basis were these promotions done and what is the justification
    for the bizarre disparity between the other zones and South East, to the
    point where a zone would get 25 Comptrollers and South East only
    four? For the avoidance of doubt, here it is: SE 4, SS 11, SW 10, NC
    18, NE 26 and NW 25.” This is the kind of thing that fuels agitation. The comptroller General has his mandate from the presidency. I expect our representatives in the national assembly to take on the government on this issue.

  • joahmed biu

    You are just knowing the man? He has always being a hater of all other tribe apart from his own. He is also a fanatic per excellence

  • Peter O Peters

    SE ex-custom men in the House stand up….Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso and co.

  • KWOY

    Biafra is the hope of Igbos.

  • kiziking

    Buhari just picked men who are made in his own image and likeness. Like father like son and friends. What has become clear so far is that Buhari and his cabinets are against the Igbos. But I am happy he is getting it hot on that seat as things are changing to worse. The old alamajiri is only pursueing the northern agenda. But he should know that his time is almost finished.

  • AA

    There was NO doubt that a Buhari presidency would be a disaster for Nigeria in many ways, but the fanatics and bigots would not hear. Where is the SINGLE area in which this regime has represented hope and progress so far? It is either the economy is strangulating or one section of the country is being marginalised. Change indeed.

  • Highflyer

    Why has father Mbaka suddenly gone dumb?

  • Simeon

    Complaints, complaints and complaints. Marginalization and now ethnic cleansing. Big words and all without any foundation and truth. You’ll think there are no other 250 tribes in the geographical space called Nigeria. Nonsense and noise making is the order of the day. Fortunately sane minds knows these are just noise making from the usual quarters, from the ethnic warriors.

  • john Kasey

    This is one Nigeria at the expense of igbos and other biafrans. It is incomprehensible to me how the dumbest part of the country plays with the sensibilities of other parts of the country. On one hand they will shout of federal character the moment they are not in positions of decision-making and on the other hand they will discard the idea of federal character no sooner they are in such positions, even though the principle of federal character is meant to help them. Who is fooling who? Based on education and merit, they can not compete with the igbos and biafrans, hence their only qualification is being a moslem. It is really a pity. This is comparable to a handicapped man disciminating against a healthy man or a blind man discriminating against a man with his full sight. It is about time the south eastern elders and biafran elders take the bull by the horn and tackle this madness of the federal government of northern Nigeria once and for all. The deceit is glaring.