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Billions lost as top Customs officers abandon duty posts

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Comptroller General of The Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali
Comptroller General of The Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali

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.

Deputy Comptroller of Customs, DC Mohammed Gaya, of Apapa Command gave out his daughter in marriage May in Kano.

Deputy Comptroller of Customs, DC Mohammed Gaya, of Apapa Command gave out his daughter in marriage May in Kano.

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.

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Satellite Times condemn the assassination of investigative journalist

-calls on journalists in Nigeria to wear black

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Ahmed Hussein-Suale, the Tiger Eye the investigative journalist who was killed by gunmen [Photo credit: Quartz Africa]
Ahmed Hussein-Suale, the Tiger Eye investigative journalist who was killed by gunmen [Photo credit: Quartz Africa]

Nigeria’s frontline investigative newspaper, Satellite Times, has condemned in strong terms the assassination in Ghana of investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale.

Ahmed was killed in a hail of bullets from gunmen on motorbike who aimed at his chest and neck, eventually speeding off without taking any valuables from his car which they had trailed till the attack. The slain journalist was one of the reporters at Tiger Eye, an investigative reporting project founded by ace Ghanaian journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

Reacting to the murder, Satellite Times’ publisher and multiple award-winning investigative journalist, Emmanuel Mayah, said in a statement that the shooting dead of Ahmed Hussein-Suale is one gruesome attack too many on African journalists doing the difficult work of ridding the continent of corruption, bad governance and political capture.

In the press statement Mayah said:

“I am reeling in shock as I write this. What happened in Ghana is too close to home that it is producing a petrifying aftershock here in Nigeria. Over the years I have received with angst news of killings of journalists across the world but none was as jolting as the slaying of Ahmed Hussein-Suale; maybe because I knew him in person.

“We at Satellite Times newsroom, join our colleagues in the global investigative journalism community in condemning the cowardly killing of this young journalist in Ghana. To Anas: we stand by you and share in your grief in this dark moment. To Ahmed’s family: the pain never goes away. To the government of Ghana we say: Journalists are not public enemy, rather they are protectors of the public interest; the defenders of the social contract between the citizens and the state.

We ask the government of Ghana and indeed those of the other member states of the African Union to recall Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against corruption, which provides that each state party shall take measures to protect “the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption”. In the spirit of this statute, we call on the government of Ghana to fish out and bring to justice the killers of Ahmed; be they in government or friends of the government.

“Death is everyone’s destiny but death for the investigative journalist is a choice. Journalists fought for the independence of nations of Africa. They fought against colonialism, apartheid, military dictatorship and now even in a democracy, they are fighting against bad governance, human rights violations and official brigandage, the last obstacles to the total emancipation of the African continent.

“We ask the African community that we serve to see investigative journalists as freedom fighters in the mould of Steve Biko, Martin Luther King, Patrice Mulumba, Thomas Sankara, Che Guevera, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Ken Saro-Wiwa; and of course, Dele Giwa, Norbert Zongo and Anna Politkovskaya.

“Journalists in Satellite Times newsroom will begin today (Friday) to wear black for seven days as we mourn our departed colleague in Ghana.”

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Human Rights

Woman slashes 11-year-old housemaid with kitchen knife

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Woman slashes 11-year-old housemaid with kitchen knife

A young girl only identified as Victoria is currently traumatized and in agonizing pain after she was severely inflicted with knife-injuries by her madam (identified as mummy Pemisire), for allegedly stealing milk.

The attention of this reporter was drawn to this case when a Twitter user, Adex Adebukola Crowngold (@AdexAdebukola) shared a gruesome photo of the child with the caption;

“My attention has just been called to this. The madam did this to her housemaid because she was accused of stealing milk.

“She’s in the hospital and the woman arrested. But justice must prevail. Location is at Ibadan.”

Eyewitness account

Speaking to SATELLITE TIMES newspaper, an eyewitness who begged to remain unnamed, gave an account as it happened on Friday, January 11, in Sanyo area, Ibadan.

“The girl ran out of their apartment with blood stains all over her and madam was still chasing her. The little girl said she tore her body with a knife.”

The 11-year-old victim was eventually rescued by concerned neighbours in Sanyo area, and taken to a nurse for first aid treatment before the Police came to get her the next morning.

When asked about the girl’s current condition and who was responsible for her hospital bill, the eyewitness said “I should think she is fine. I don’t know who is handling her bills. The Police took her to Montana hospital, Challenge area in Ibadan.”

Her madam, Pemisire, was however arrested same night of the incident by the Police and taken to a station in Sanyo, Ibadan.

“The madam should still be in the Police custody. That is if they haven’t released her yet, you know Nigerian Police. She hasn’t returned home since that night,” the witness added.

Efforts to reach the Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajisebutu Adekunle via telephone were initially unsuccessful but he later responded with a text saying “the case is currently under investigation. The CP, Abiodun Odude, has directed that the case should be transferred to the state CIID Iyaganku immediately for discreet investigation and prosecution.”

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Inspector General dismisses 160 Policemen for fleeing Boko Haram posting

-Dismissal letter signed on Boxing Day

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A few hours after the force PRO, Jimoh Moshood, vigorously denied that no police officer had absconded from the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), following controversial posting of scores of Mobile Policemen to Boko Haram territories, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, signed a letter ordering the dismissal of over 160 Policemen for going AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave).

The dismissal letter with reference number CH: 6350/DOPS/PMF/FHQ/ABJ/VOL4/25 and exclusively obtained by SATELLITE TIMES revealed that the officers were dismissed on orders of the Police IG. According to the letter, all affected personnel are to be ejected from the Barracks if occupying any and also to ensure stoppage of salaries.

The over 160 officers were amongst the 2000 policemen recently drafted by the Police IG to help support the Nigerian Army in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria’s war-torn North-east region.

The Nigerian Army on Wednesday however contradicted the Nigerian Police Force who earlier denied that no officer absconded as earlier reported.

Though the Nigerian Army claimed that the fleeing officers were amongst ‘the unruly’ ones who the Special Forces School at Buni-Yudi, some of them were however caught in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.

Coordinator Nigeria Police Force for Operation Lafiya-Dole (NPFOLD), A. S. Ishaq, in an interview with PRNigeria said “there was nothing like policemen absconding, but just a case of some recalcitrant personnel leaving their training base for a reason which was not cogent”.

“What happened was that some of the police officers insisted on going for the Christmas holiday. But in line with standard military operations, there was no way officers undergoing special training on a combat-operation, could leave their base when the training exercise has not rounded up.

“So, we refused to grant them permission. However, the unruly ones among them left our Special Forces School at Buni-Yudi, venue of the training. But thank God, the unruly personnel were tracked at Damaturu, the state’s capital. Right now, some of them have been brought back to the School.”

A brother to one of the fleeing mobile policemen told Satellite Times what his brother told him from hiding: When it is time for special posting that will be beneficial they select their own people but when it comes to danger they post people from a different part of the country.”
The runaway police officer added: “All you need to do is to look at the list and you will see that over 90 percent of us are Christians and also from the south.”

With varying discrepancies from both the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force, inside sources told SATELLITE TIMES that the officers fled after they were deployed to Boko Haram territories.

Below is the dismissal letter obtained by this newspaper.

 

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