The nation’s No. 2 cash cow, the Nigeria Customs Service, is hemorrhaging; this time not from the multifarious cases of corruption, but from the technical shutdown of the revenue agency each time a family member of a top-ranking officer is getting married.
Frustrated importers and clearing agents told SATELLITE TIMES that billions of naira is lost each time a top customs officer is hosting a wedding ceremony for his son or daughter.
“Each time these weddings happen, we the clearing agents are the worst hit as everything comes to a standstill because not only is one Oga (boss) staying away from work to be at his child’s wedding, all his senior colleagues go with him beginning from Thursday for a wedding that will take place on a Saturday,” said a clearing agent at Maersk Line Apapa who wouldn’t want his name in print.
It was further gathered that not only do these top customs officers abandon duty post for wedding ceremonies, they rarely delegate functions to subordinates especially where their signatures need to be appended before an import document can move to the next desk or before a container is released.
Explaining the reluctance of top officers to delegate functions to the next most senior officers in his unit, another clearing agent at Tin Can Island port said the signature of a top customs officer in strategic position “is worth hundreds of thousands of naira, sometimes millions; that is why no such officer can permit someone else to do his work even if for one day; so everyone has to wait meaning that importers incur more cost while the nation losses billions”.
Satellite Times gathered that between April and July 2018, port activities slowed down considerably because of these constant weddings which resulted in loss of revenue in the affected Commands.
On 14th April Aisha, daughter of an Assistant Comptroller of Customs Chiroma Z. wedded Hammed Mohammed in Borno State on a Saturday. However, from the preceeding Thursday activities at the whole Customs Commands in Tin-Can, Apapa, Badagry and Seme Border were paralysed. The result was that you could not process anything at that time because all the officers were preparing for the wedding and some did not return to their duty post until the following Tuesday.
Also, in May, Deputy Comptroller Mohammed Gaya, the ASYCUDA Project Manager in Apapa Command gave out his daughter in marriage in Kano. He is the Revenue Officer of the Command.
Like Gaya, other senior officers that have had such weddings between May and July were Comptroller Mira of Tin-Can Command, Deputy Comptroller Abdullahi Kirawa , the OC Task force Tin-Can, and the Area Comptroller Kebbi who oversees the Maritime Command Coconut Apapa. Sadly, these are the most strategic offices that generate revenue for the ministry of finance.
From Apapa to Tin Can to Lily Field Bonded Terminal, all the importers and clearing agents spoken to expressed helplessness when this newspaper sought their reactions in respect of senior officers abandoning their duty posts for social engagements.
Mr. Joel Ugbokoh, a former customs officer who is now a clearing agent lamented the development saying that years back officers did attend social functions but always left someone behind to act in their place.
“Today we are left with no option but to wait for them to arrive from their trips or holidays, which sometimes result to delay in taking delivery and also excessive demurrage incurred in the process,” Ugbokoh said.
The retired officer added: “This needs to be checkmated. The government is losing money; the importers are made to incur higher costs which of course they must pass on to the ordinary Nigerians; customs officers are public servants but every day here they use every opportunity to play God, so you find clearing agents sometimes going on their knees before an officer can be persuaded to do his work”.
Telephone calls and SMS enquiries sent to the official number of the PRO of Customs in the Abuja headquarters were not responded to before the commencement of the Sallah holiday.
Police to review lopsided promotions after Satellite Times report
Following the exclusive report by SATELLITE TIMES which exposed lop-sidedness and favouritism in the last Police promotion exercise, the new leadership of the Police Service Commission (PSC) is set to review the controversial promotions.
In his determination to bring back the past glory of the police, the new Chairman of Police Service Commission, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, a retired Inspector-General of Police (IGP), has appointed retired Justice Clara Ogundipe to head the committee to review recent promotions revealed by this newspaper to have been lopsided.
In July 2018, SATELLITE TIMES’s investigation revealed that the last police promotion had left legion of deserving officers disaffected as Jimoh Moshood, Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO) was promoted twice in six months while Abdulkarim Abdullahi, a personal assistant to the current Inspect General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was promoted to the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), whereas his Course 35 mates were still only Superintendent of Police (SP), having been promoted to that rank just last year.
Going by the General Promotion Guidelines spelt out for the Police Service Commission, it takes a minimum of three years for an officer between the ranks of Assistant Superintendent of Police (CSP) – Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) to be considered for another promotion during which time he or she must have attended the relevant promotion course and passed the prescribed examination. Similarly, it takes a minimum of four years for an officer in the Nigeria Police Force to be considered for promotion to any of the ranks between Assistant Commissioner of Police and Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG).
A dependable source at the Police Service Commission told Daily Independent newspaper “the committee started sitting two weeks ago, and it has called for the nominal roll of the entire police force.”
“The committee is mandated to review all promotions from 2016 till date. After the screening, those who do not merit their promotions would be reverted to their former ranks,” the source added.
Daily Independent learnt that Justice Ogundipe, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, is being assisted by Lawa Bawa, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG).
The timeframe given to the committee to submit its report was not immediately known, but the dependable source at the PSC explained that there was no timeframe because of the volume of work involved.
“The volume of work is much that was why they were not given a timeframe, because they are expected to do a thorough work, so that tomorrow nobody will say he or she was victimised.”
It was gathered that the Musikilu Smith-led new new board members, on assumption of duty in July, received myriad of petitions from serving police officers who were said to be aggrieved over what they claimed was “lopsided promotions”.
The paper also reported that some of those who petitioned the commission claimed that when the list of promoted officers was released, their names were not among the successful officers even when they were due for promotion.
They alleged that because they could not induce some influential officers, their rights were denied them.
46 NGOs mobilize to free man in SARS Police dungeon
Following SATELLITE TIMES’s report which days ago sparked public outrage over a Nigerian citizen languishing for three months in Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) police detention facility in Abuja, NOPRIN a coalition of 46 Civil Society Organisations (CSO) has mobilized to set free the detainee and to put to an end the agony of his wife who must leave behind her one-year-old and 3-year-old children to travel a combined 400 kilometres and six hours to be able to visit her husband for three minutes.
NOPRIN (Network On Police Reform in Nigeria) said the SATELLITE TIMES report published September 16, with the headline: “SARS Policemen keep man in dungeon, demands N2.9 million for his release” caught the attention of the human-rights coalition, compelling it to forward the newspaper report to the Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) of Police in Charge of Operations, Mr. Habila Joshak, for necessary actions.
National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, who spoke to SATELLITE TIMES after sending the story via WhatsApp and e-mail, which he said relayed the agony of the victim and his family to the police boss, added that the case was just one among many across the country about citizens suffering similar fate in the hands of lawless people calling themselves policemen.
“The manner of arrest is arbitrary and therefore illegal. Edache was simply abducted by the SARS operatives because at the point of arrest, they did not inform him of the reason for his arrest.
“He has been denied access to legal representation and family. He has been detained indefinitely without being charged to court, this is unlawful.
“The IPO has extorted money from his wife and has been engaging in lies and deceit in a bid to extort more money. His wife has been subjected to untold hardship by being made to travel long distance to Abuja from Nasaarawa to see her husband without being allowed access to him.
“The incommunicado detention of the man amounts to abuse of his right to liberty, presumption of innocence, the dignity of his human person and other due process guarantees under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
The conduct of the SARS operatives and the posture of the police hierarchy which indicates condonement and endorsement clearly shows that police authorities are not genuinely committed to reforming SARS and punishing and ending acts of impunity”, Nwanguma said.
Nwanguma added that the story of Edache was very pathetic and one that demanded urgent actions to be taken. He said that was why his organisation sent the report to the DIG in Charge of Operations.
He explained that sending the story to a senior and respected officer like Mr Habila was a way of calling the attention of police authority to what is going on within the Police Force, adding that now that the story is in the public domain, stakeholders are watching what is going on with keen interest and NOPRIN is also following the Citizen Edache case.
Nwanguma called on the Police Services Commission (PSC) and the National Human Rights Commission to initiate immediate investigation to ensure the freedom of the detainee while the police officers responsible for this cruelty are made to face the law.
SARS Policeman dismissed after Satellite Times report
Following SATELLITE TIMES exclusive report on a woman who was terrorised and extorted at gunpoint by a team of policemen from the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) led by Inspector Charles Omotosho, justice has come to the victim and the society made safer with the dismissal of Omotosho by the Nigeria Police Force.
On May 18, 2018 SATELLITE TIMES published the ordeal of Ms. Ifeoluwa Adegoke in the hands of SARS operatives attached to the Ipakodo-Ikorodu in Lagos State. Adegoke and her friends were travelling from Lagos to Ikorodu for a video shot on Wednesday May 16, 2018 about 1pm when the team of armed policemen pulled them over and announced they were under arrest.
Pointing guns at the terrified woman and her colleagues, the policemen led by Inspector Omotosho threaten to “waste” their helpless victims and demanded to be paid the sum of N100,000. Adegoke said she “begged and begged” her tormentors and was forced to surrender all she had in her bank account.
Using mobile money transfer, the woman transferred the sum of N5,000 to an account number supplied by the policemen.
SATELLITE TIMES published the transaction receipt from UBA Bank showing that on the fateful day, Adegoke Ifeoluwa transferred the said sum to Omotosho Olushola Charles of receiver account number 3039061420.
Adegoke said Inspector Omotosho and his team held her captive while he waited to receive the credit alert from his bank.
Report on Adegoke’s ordeal attracted the attention of the Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, Abayomi Shogunle, who also heads the Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU) of the Nigeria Police.
Three months after, the PCRRU which promised to investigate has now made public its findings, saying Omotosho has been handed his dismissal letter by the Nigeria Police Force.
The PCRRU tweeted on Friday that the Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 2, Lagos, Ibrahim Adamu, has approved the dismissal of Mr Omotosho.
“UPDATE #PCRRU316356. The Assistant-Inspector General of Police Zone 2, Lagos, AIG Ibrahim Adamu has reviewed the Orderly Room proceedings and approved the punishment of dismissal of AP. No. 136207 Inspr. Charles Olusola Omotosho from @PoliceNG wef 16.07.2018.”
“Omotosho attached to SARS Ikorodu, Lagos at the time was found guilty of Corrupt Practices and Discreditable Conduct contrary to Para. C (ii) and E (iii) of Police Act and Regulations CAP. P19 LFN 2004.
“Three other accomplices of the dismissed inspector were awarded punishment of reduction in rank from sergeant to corporal by the police. All @PoliceNG items (uniforms & ID card) have since been retrieved from the dismissed Inspector”, the tweet read.
Reacting to the development, National Coordinator of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) – a coalition of 46 Civil Society Organisations – Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma gave the thumbs up to Ifeoluwa Adegoke for crying out.
Speaking to SATELLITE TIMES, Nwanguma said: ” dismissal is obviously in response to the sustained public outcry against acts of impunity by SARS operatives across the country and the recent, albeit, belated directive from the presidency to the IGP to reform SARS.
” It is good that in this case, the police have shifted from the norm of covering up crimes and shielding criminals within the police.
” This highlights the importance of citizens remaining vigilant and standing up for their rights. The credit goes to the victim who spoke out and to all the individuals and citizen groups who took up the gauntlet to campaign against SARS criminality and advocate for reform.
” I also commend the AIG for showing the courage to take this necessary disciplinary measure” Nwanguma said.
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