The Scriptures note that any man that is able to wash his hands clean will eat at the table of Kings. In another word, if one has determination and good faith, nothing stops one from achieving all his aims and goals. I can courageously tell Mr. President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, that if he attempts to remove the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service at this moment, in the history of the agency, he will have unwieldy riot on his hands. The reasons are not far-fetched.
When Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, was appointed Chief Executive of the Service, some seventeen months ago, some cynics went to town manufacturing stories and creating an unconducive environment for the gentleman to operate. But the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, did not mind the antics of the never-do-wells and went about his civic duties convincingly. Before long, he had done much that even other doubting Thomases were convinced that the man meant business. He was appointed on merit, and deserves the accolades that he got.
In this year, 2011, the Maritime Media Limited chose him as the Maritime Man of the Year. This is not the first time he has been chosen as ‘Man of the Year’. There have been some other occasions, when he was chosen as ‘Man of Credibility’, because of either, his hard work, sincerity of purpose, focus, honesty, vision or utilisation of his skills and talents in turning round the fortunes of the Nigeria Customs Service. He has never claimed that he does the job alone, rather, he commends his team mates and colleagues, who are his Deputy-Comptrollers-General, Assistant-Comptrollers-General, Comptrollers etc. He has brought team work, and team spirit into the service and he has touched on every aspect of the agenda he crafted, when he came in as the overall boss of the Organisation.
The World Customs Organisation [WCO], had on several occasions, commended the leadership of Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, in piloting the affairs of the Nigeria Customs Service, the latest happened during the recently concluded celebrations of International World Customs Day.
This particular acknowledgement came from the lips of Mr. Lars Karlson, the immediate past Director Capacity Building, in the World Customs Organisation and current Deputy-Director-General of Swedish Customs. The World Customs Organisation expressed satisfaction over the on-going customs reforms and modernisation programme in Nigeria which it said, has impacted positively on the operations of the service. The modernisation programme which effectively started less than two years under the indefatigable indomitable irrepressible, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, has remarkably changed the orientation, psyche and work ethics of men and officers of the Nigeria Custom, while raising the standard of their operations which are basically driven by technology.
Speaking effusively at the International Conference Centre, Abuja at the occasion, Mr. Lars Karlson emphasized that the World Customs body was pleased with the steady progress being made by Nigeria Customs in its reforms which he said, placed the service in the leadership role within the West-Africa and Central African regions. “We listened to the views of Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde at the Capacity Building Office of WCO. We not only listened, we acted on his views”, declared the Swedish Customs spokesperson. He further stated that other countries within the region were encouraged by the level of progress made by the Nigeria Customs, which they were emulating. The World Customs Organisations’ official said therefore, that he was not surprised that Nigeria is the Vice-President of WCO within the West African and Central African regions. He however, cautioned the management of the service not to be carried away with the journey so far, in the modernisation programme, as there was still a lot of ground to be covered.
That is at the International level. But an interview conducted by Business Hallmark Newspaper, Monday, January 31-February 6,2011, page 36 with Musa Tahir, Assistant Comptroller-General Headquarters, came up with a new nomenclature for the Comptroller-General, whereby Officers and Men of the Service now call the CEO, ‘Mr. Welfare’, in appreciation of improving work standards of the Nigeria Customs Service. I dug enough to find out why.
The 2010 annual report of activities of the Welfare Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service, compiled by Deputy Comptroller Welfare, Ibrahim M. which was released to the press, stated that the achievements in this unit are numerous. Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, had demystified cynics and just read this digestively, and you will see a magnificent administrator at work.
There has been an improved welfare package for officers and men as an incentive to enhance the performance of officers which was one of the six point agenda initialised by the officer in charge.
“The Welfare Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service covers a number of outstanding policies which have definitely and substantially impacted on the morale and well-being of officers. This has improved the performance of officers since 2009. The Nigeria Customs Service Welfare Unit handles among others, the following.
The Insurance Scheme which started as a single Welfare Policy in 1992 has now evolved and enlarged into various schemes. (1) The Welfare Insurance Policy as the first policy made through five percent contribution of annual basic salaries of officers. The benefit accruable is three-times the annual basic salary of a deceased officer payable to their beneficiaries. [ii]N80, 000.00 flat rate is paid as burial expenses. A retired officer is paid 60% interest on his five percent contribution.
Last year, that is 2010, a total of 435 retired officers and 134 next of kin of deceased officers benefited from this scheme. It is worthy to note that despite the fact that the Nigeria Customs Service is self accounting, the service GL and GPA, still followed the implementation and guidelines of GL Assurance policy for employees of the Federal Government for 2010.
On the welfare insurance policy, there has been no problem except NICON since 2007, which owes to the tune of N900, 000,000 [Nine-hundred Million Naira]due to privatisation of NICON. Efforts are in top gear to ensure the recovery of this money.
The Group Personal Accident Policy is payment of claims to officers who die violently in the course of the performance of their duties. This policy came about in 2005. The benefits derivable from this policy are graded and they range from N2,000,000.00 to N6,000,000.00 depending on the rank of the officer affected. The premium payable of N800, 000,000.00 was secured and all the claims for more than 40 affected officers for 2010 have been duly settled.
In addition to this, the Group Life Assurance is compulsory as spelt out under the Pension Reform Act 2004, section 9.Under this scheme, an officer is paid a minimum of three-times his annual total emolument as death-in-service.
This is paid to officers Retirement SAVINGS account [RSA] for the beneficent of his beneficiaries. In 2010; insurance scheme of the Welfare Unit should have covered Assets, Marine and Aviations.
In the Health Sector, the Nigeria Customs Service commissioned the Karu, Abuja ULTRA-modern Medical Centre, the first in the entire history of the service. At the same time, eleven other medical units were also commissioned
In 2010, altogether and in addition to the Abdullahi Dikko Inde Medical Centre in Katsina, there are medical units in almost all the area commands. There has been an improvement on the Drug Revolving Scheme where drugs are purchased and supplied to the Medical Centres for the service of personnel at highly subsidized rate.
The NCS purchased Medical Equipments and supplied same to Karu, Wuse, Lagos and Port-Harcourt in 2010. There has been a consistent refund of medical bills. The sum of N7,800,000.00 was refunded as medical bill to an officer with the approval of the management in 2010. The Medical Board was also constituted alongside the constitution of Medical Management Committee on 14th December 2009.
On the National Health Insurance Scheme, since its inception, officers and men have benefitted from it immensely.
The Nigeria Customs Service Cooperative Society interim board was inaugurated by the Comptroller-General of the Customs on the 23rd of April 2010 with a charge to put in place a viable cooperative society that will leave a legacy of service to all officers and men of the Nigeria Customs.
The new interim Management of the Board after deliberations and evaluation of the views and suggestions received from officers, paid visits to functioning and thriving organisations such as the Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps to study their models for guidance. The cooperative has applied for land from the Federal Ministry of Lands and Housing to build houses for officers on owner occupier basis.
The Cooperative within the short period of its inception, impeccable sources said, paid N11,635,66.5 to retired officers and beneficiaries of deceased officers as refund to cooperative contributions.
On the report of Customs Immigrations and Prisons Pensions Organisation [CIPPO] under the welfare unit in question in 2010, gave a total of one hundred deceased officers beneficiaries letter of introduction to the Director of CIPPO, Gwagwalada, Abuja for processing of gratuities and pension matters. A total number of 1,956 down-sized officers were sent to CIPPO for computation of their severance benefits and their benefit claims and were last paid in May/June 2010.
Still, about 250 retired officers and deceased officers and next of kin were given letters of introduction as instructed by the PENCOM Administration to give letters of introduction in return by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies [MDA] to their respective Pension Fund Administrators under the period of review, 2010.
These, and more are some of the laudable steps taken by the present management of the Nigeria Customs Service besides the promotions that have been on-going, one-hundred percent increment of salaries, more 8000 officers have attended different types of courses at home and abroad, some in USA, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Egypt, UAE and bilateral and multi-lateral visits to Japan, China, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Burkin-Faso and Mali Republics.
The Nigeria Customs Service also, has provided deserving officers with personal computers to enhance the Automated Systems of Customs Data [ASYCUDA] which is the in-thing, and what Mr. Lars Karlson, the Swedish Customs Chief was talking about at the beginning of this profile.