BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
Erstwhile Customs Controller of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone B, now Acting Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) of Customs, Albashir Hamisu psc+ last week vacated Kangiwa House for Comptroller MI Jalo, drafted to takeover affairs of the Unit, also known as Kangiwa House, following the recent routine shakeup in the customs service.
Until his recent posting, Comptroller Jalo was the Controller, Federal Operations Unit Zone D, which made the headlines in November last year, following alarm raised by one of its operatives that the unit’s superior officers were engaged in trans-border fuel smuggling .
Hamisu who was reassigned as the Commandant of the Command and Staff College (CSC) Gwagwalada during the handover ceremony charged Officers/Men of the Unit to continue to display competence and professionalism, and to remain courteous and yet firm on the line of duty, without losing their dignity.
This is even as the new occupant of Kangiwa House, Comptroller Jalo promised to maintain the legacy of his predecessor, even as he tasked principal officers of the unit to work hard to keep up with the wide margin performance scorecard being left behind by ACG Hamisu.
A statement by the Unit Public Relations Officer, SC I Suleiman, quoted the outgoing former unit boss as having thanked the unit’s management team and operatives for the support he enjoyed from them, while he admonished them to desist from comparing leaders, and urged them to focus on the prevailing work style. According to the statement, Hamisu said any that any effort at comparing two different leaders would be counterproductive, since leadership styles are often different.
The statement reads: “Comptroller MI Jalo has today 27 January 2023 took over the mantle of leadership of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘B’ Kaduna as the 22nd Comptroller of the Unit.
“The Outgoing Comptroller during the handing and taking over at the Unit’s Headquarters in Kaduna charged the Officers/Men to be civil and polite while on patrol duties; reminding the Officers to be patriotic and truthful at all times.
“The Ag. ACG advised them to avoid comparing leaders because every human has his inherent strength and weaknesses. He commended and appreciated the Officers/Men for their cooperation and unwavering support throughout his tenure and urged them to extend same to the new Comptroller”, adding:
“The new Comptroller promised to maintain the legacy of his predecessor and charged Officers/Men to work hard to achieve maximum result.”
It will be recalled that Jalo’s office recently came under the news flash when an operative, Owombo Segun John raised the alarm about massive fuel smuggling in tankers crossing into neigbhouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroun, purportedly with the support of the management of FOU Zone D.
Owombo, a Superintendent of Customs in an indicting video narrative revealed how he arrested some of the tankers used in alleged smuggling on Wednesday, November 2, 2022 at Malabo Checkpoint along Belel Road, Adamawa state; but claimed he was prevailed upon by senior officers to release the tankers and those arrested along the haulage vehicles.
However, it would appear that the whistle blower’s revelations put the service in dire strait as efforts were made to repudiate his claims to the extent of making him look like a pathological peddler of misinformation.
Whatever the episode was worth, up till the time of writing this report, management of the service merely swept the matter under the carpet; irrespective of the service’s leadership stance about legitimate fuel distribution to border locations, which he perceived as offering official cover for fuel smuggling.
In November 2019, the NCS announced a directive that restricted petroleum products from being supplied to fuel stations within 20 kilometres of the borders. The directive was regarded as unilateral, tyrannical and misplaced.
Officer Owombo was later arrested on the orders of the management of the customs service and reportedly transferred to the headquarters, Abuja. The unfortunate officer was later to be labeled mentally unstable by the customs management, without a medical report shown by the service to validate its claim.
While the condition of the quarantined officer remains unknown, his overall boss and controller of FOU Zone D, Comptroller Jalo has been rewarded with the leadership of the FOU Zone B, which is a busier customs trade zone, regarded officially as the economic nerve centre of northern region.
Only recently, the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) while lamenting the ugly reality of fuel smuggling across the nation’s land borders, have had cause to draw the flak with the leadership of the Nigerian national Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), now NNPL.
Col. Ali condemned in strong terms perceived smuggling of the products from NNPC controlled depots, just as he opposed supply of premium motor spirit, known in local parlance as petrol to border locations, a situation believed to have caused untold hardship amongst border communities and peoples.
It will also be recalled that the customs management in 2020 subjected two Assistant Comptroller-Generals (ACG), to in-house trial, over alleged involvement in fuel and rice related smuggling charges. At the end of the in-house trial, one regarded very highly within the service and without, not only lost his commission, but was dismissed with ignominy, while the second escaped with compulsory retirement.
It is also instructive but nonetheless curious, that while the poor whistle blower, in detention right under the CGC’s nose, apparently appears forgotten, some of those he accused in his vitriol report are basking in the glee of a special reward system that is patently Nigerian.