From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Following the fraud allegations against the Controller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), by Sen. Francis Fadahunsi, maritime stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to investigate the claims and apply appropriate sanctions
Fadahunsi, the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and a retired Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG) of Customs, had alleged, among others, that “the CG wants to recruit 3,200 persons and he paid N1.6 billion to a consultant to recruit 3,200 persons,” according to the Punch on Sunday.
“The money is not for training but to just recruit them. I asked him if the Nigerian Army ever used consultants to recruit personnel and he said no. He said customs officers are corrupt and he is bringing in a consultant to recruit 3,200 persons and he will pay the firm N1.6 billion.
“Are you recruiting five million people? The N1.6 billion is even in the budget and that is one of the reasons the budget was being queried by the leadership of the Senate.”
He further claimed: “If you see the fraud in the Customs now, you will be shocked, but nobody must talk. They make noise to cover this up, but if you go into their books, you will be surprised.
“Customs headquarters was awarded for N2.7 billion then, but today the project is going to about N30 billion. The project has not been completed but the furniture contract for the uncompleted building has been awarded.”
Concerned that the allegations were made by a person of such standing, former National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Olayiwola Shittu, noted that “when people that ought to know about issues speak out on fraudulent activities, then the authorities need to do the needful and investigate it properly.
“We cannot say because the Customs CG is always harping on the fight against corruption, such allegation should not be investigated. We are talking about activities of customs, which always involve huge sums of public funds. Government agencies with forensic capabilities like the EFCC, ICPC should wade in and investigate the matter.”
On the same premise that Fadahunsi should know better, National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, opted for a public hearing.
“The man who made that allegation is number two in a Senate committee that oversees the customs, so there should be a public hearing on the matter, as well as a thorough investigation by concerned agencies of government.
“Don’t forget that Sen. Fadahunsi served in the Customs for years and rose through the ranks to the position of a DCG, so he might have information that we might not have.”
Likewise, ANLCA Vice President, Mr. Kayode Farinto, who expressed shock that investigations were yet to be opened into the matter, said “the person that made that allegation is not an ordinary Nigerian, he is a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who retired as a DCG from the NCS.
“Currently, he is the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Customs, so I don’t want to believe that he will just open his mouth to speak on such sensitive issues when there is nothing. The allegation should be investigated, and if found to be untrue, the senator should be made to face the consequences.”
However, the NCS has strongly refuted Fadahunsi’s claims on the N1.6 billion recruitment payment, which it describes as “misleading.” The National Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah, explained that a total of N1.152 billion would be spent on feeding the 3,200 personnel to be recruited during their six-month stay at the Customs Training College, Ikeja.
According to him, the N1.6 billion covers recruitment, training and other related logistics.
He stated: “The feeding will cost N2,000 per trainee/day (N6.4 million/day and N192 million/month), which is about N1.152 billion for the 3,200 persons for the six-month training at the Customs Training College, Ikeja.
“The process of recruitment and the technical partners has a budget of about N300 million. We have not even talked about t-shirt, canvas, logistics, pay for resource persons and bonus for teachers (which are all part of the figure).”