By Adegboyega Oni
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, last week advised the National President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Tony Iju Nwabunike and his delegation who visited him in Abuja to expose officers of the Customs who are caught in any act of corruption in the ports. Ali promised that the customs management would not hesitate to deal with such officers.
The ANLCA delegation led by Tony Iju Nwabunike had told the Comptroller General of Customs, Ali, about various impediments that customs agents face while processing the release of cargo in the ports. And one of the impediments is corruption as customs officers are allegedly accused by customs agents of demanding bribe from them before releasing their cargoes.
But the National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Adumaza Joe Sanni has stated contrarily by telling the Comptroller General of Customs that his august visitors – the ANLCA President and other members of the delegation – are the real enablers of corruption in the ports as they are the ones bribing customs officers to circumvent the import guidelines of the government.
Joe Sanni warned Hameed Ali that none of his guests including the ANLCA President must be included on any Customs Consultative Forum because ‘’they are not qualified at all, character-wise.’’
According to Joe Sanni, in a press statement, he issued and dated July 18, 2020, and made available to PortNews in Lagos, the Customs boss must note that none of his officers would condone acts that lead to revenue leakages without being prompted and encouraged by customs agents. And that the immediate past Customs boss had asserted that customs agents lured customs officers into corruption.
Joe Sanni said the visitation did not receive the blessing of a greater number of executives, leaders, and members of the association as the visitation was more of self-seeking than finding solutions to multiple operational challenges customs agents face in the ports.
The ANLCA Spokesman told the Customs boss that little can the customs management do to curb corruptive tendencies in the ports if human interfaces are continually encouraged except automation of cargo releasing processes, install scanners & CCTV cameras to monitor examination bays, the terminals area, and exit gates activities.
‘’Without any prior knowledge to members of ANLCA generally, and especially to the chapters executives, and since there was no information about the visit circulated anywhere, inputs were not expected. If that information is not available to relevant members, what has Tony Iju, claiming to be “National President”, to table before the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC)? From the vantage and experienced position of this writer, Tony and his lackeys have gone there to show their faces to the CGC and a handful of the management team of the Nigeria Customs Service for purely pecuniary reasons and not on behalf of ANLCA.
‘’The CGC has requested that Tony Iju and his fellow officials should report Customs personnel involved in shady deals (Corruption) to him, while within the same delegation led by Tony Iju are the biggest enablers, connivers and perpetrators of shady deals in the Ports. The CGC must note that none of his officers would condone acts that lead to revenue leakages without being prompted and encouraged by Customs Brokers. The immediate past CGC made a sing-song out of the cliché – “It takes two to tango.”
‘’There is little or nothing that can be done about curbing corruptive tendencies in the Ports if human interfaces are continually encouraged, without deliberate efforts to automate processes, install scanners & CCTV cameras to monitor examination bays, the terminals area and exit gates activities.
‘’This is a timely warning to the Customs management; none of those members on Tony Iju’s delegation should be put on any Customs Consultative Forum because they are not qualified at all, character-wise.’’
Joe Sanni took time to enlighten Hameed Ali on the association which has been embroiled in crisis over Board of Trustees leadership since Tony Iju Nwabunike assumed office, telling Ali that he hosted a wrong set of people who represented nobody, no association, but themselves because the Customs boss was not fully abreast about the current status of ANLCA or the goings-on in the ports industry.
‘’Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) – the CGC was talking to the wrong set of people who represented nobody, no association, but themselves. They sought an audience with the CGC, knowing fully well that he is not well informed about the current status of ANLCA or the goings-on in the Ports industry.
‘’I am sure the CGC’s office is replete with records of ANLCA and its members’ status and operational capabilities/abilities. The CGC’s office houses records of those members of every association that have committed one infraction or the other. The fact that the CGC is not leveraging on these records to initiate some inquisition on the continuing activity of those masquerading as ANLCA officials, means that the Nigeria Customs Service is at peace with the happenings in the ports, and does not desire a change for the better.
‘’Those who were in Abuja, merely went to seek for personal potential favors in advance, so that when next they have challenges in the Ports, as its usual with all of them, they would be recognized for assistance, having attended a joint meeting together. Those who were at the CGC’s conference hall, do not carry any mandate to attend the meeting and no operational challenges were aggregated to be tabled before the CGC, as done by Prince Olayiwola Shittu on 27th March 2017 and even, as experienced during the first few weeks of Tony Iju Nwabunike’s administration, on the 21st of June 2018.
‘’At those periods, deliberate efforts were made to collate all challenges from our members operating at the Seaports, Airports and Border Stations. These were diligently and meticulously articulated in written addresses and presented to management for their attention.
‘’In this case of a so-called visit by some unrecognized ANLCA officials, nobody got information about the impending visit to the CGC; only those within the circle of pretending persons being led by a so-called “National President”, whose election and mandate has been torpedoed (including this writer’s mandate) by the defining and declarative judgment of Justice Rilwan Aikawa in Suit # FHC/L/CS/1274/2018, which declared affirmatively that the elected Board of Trustees (BOT) of 2014 in Warri which conducted the NECOM elections in Enugu, remained inconclusive without registering the elected members with the Corporate Affairs Commission, as enshrined in ANLCA’s Supreme Constitution 2008 (as amended).
‘’The immediate implication of that judgment was that all activities conducted during the pendency of that BOT, remains null and void – including, but not limited to, the Eastern Chapters elections, the National Executive Committee (NECOM) elections on the 8th of March 2018 in Enugu and the Western Zone Chapters election on the 19th of December 2018.
‘’Rather than Tony Iju working the path of honor and seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis he created and sustained in consonance with Chiefs Peter Obih and Henry Njoku, he carried on, as if nothing untoward or grievous has happened to ANLCA.
‘’Where these entire shenanigans have led ANLCA to is what all of us normal human beings have been wondering about. How could anyone with some level of sanity still pretend that all is well, with a plethora of Court cases hanging all around him? More baffling and dumbfounding is that some supposedly decent individuals still mill around such persons as Tony Iju and Kayode Farinto, who definitely have nothing to offer, other than their unnecessarily tolerated nuisance.
‘’One incontrovertible information to the Nigerian Customs Service though: ANLCA, which is the major stakeholder of Nigeria Customs Service, is presently in crisis and there is no leadership structure in place as of today, but the recently recognized BOT, headed by Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha – whose Certificate of Registration, issued on the 16th of January 2020, has been recognized by an order of Justice Oguntoyinbo in Suit # FHC/L/CS/599/2020. With that order revalidated last Monday, it has become very clear that there are no Chapters, Zonal and National Executives existing in ANLCA, since Justice Aikawa’s judgment, delivered on the 11th of October 2019. This implies that that meeting was a complete waste of time, as nothing good will come out of it.
‘’The Prince Olayiwola Shittu-led NECOM conducted the BOT elections in Warri, Delta State in February of 2014 in wellington Hotel. The BOT then, never took the constitutionally required step of formalizing its elections with the CAC, as required by CAMA in section 590, and as provisioned in Section 13(1) of the Supreme Constitution of ANLCA 2008 (as amended), until five of the BOT members themselves initiated moves to secure their registration in January 2020, left undone since 2001.
‘’We have all carried on especially in this maritime industry as if nothing went amiss in ANLCA, and keep conversing about nothing of note. Rather than we asking pertinent questions about the locus standi of persons parading themselves as officials of ANLCA vis-à-vis the Justices Aikawa and Oguntoyinbo’s pronouncements, judgments and orders, we all take all they tell us as the gospel truth and therefore representative of the bodies they profess to represent.
‘’One thing that must be clear to all and sundry is that the BOT is presently in charge in ANLCA. The BOT is aware that they are custodians of the constitution and properties of ANLCA, and do not have any constitutional administrative role in the constitution of ANLCA. But when there is a crisis in ANLCA the BOT reserves the right to step in, to right things within three months.
‘’One just hopes that the five authentic BOT members will, this time around, act quickly to stabilize ANLCA. An opportunity availed Tony Iju was thrown away, when a meeting was scheduled with him by the BOT on the 14th of July 2020 at the National Secretariat, by pleading that he would be burying his late brother that day, only for him to surface at Customs headquarters, Abuja on the 16th of July 2020 – just two days later, for a meeting at Customs Headquarters in Abuja.
‘’Somebody who actually is bereaved should not be behaving that way, after postponing the meeting with the BOT till July 30, 2020. If Tony Iju’s queer character and antecedents are anything to go by, he is only taking the liberty of the inaction of the BOT, for a license to continue to ride roughshod over everybody, including heads of the Maritime Agencies and some other government officials.
‘’These heads should be able to challenge Tony Iju Nwabunike to come clean on his leadership/headship of ANLCA, if truly he is, by including on his entourage at least three of the Chairmen of Chapters in the Western Zone. Even if he intends to showcase those in the Eastern Zones who have been his chief supporters over the years, none can be located around him again. Tony Iju has completely lost it. All that is expected of him is to end his sojourn as “NP” of ANLCA himself, as there seems to be a little option left.
‘’Just like he said on record, on the assumption of office on the 14th of April 2018 and on many other occasions, the shoes left behind by the immediate past National President is obviously too large for him to wear and he will plead for the assistance of lovers of ANLCA to aid him, in the governance process of ANLCA.
‘’He eventually turned down all entreaties from well-meaning elders and especially from immediate past leaders of the association. That is the reason Tony Iju seems to be a lone-ranger right now, struggling strenuously to find an easy way out of the quagmire that he has knowingly and deliberately found himself today.’’