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Magu and Ali: Acid Tests for Good Governance, By Issa Aremu


Issa Aremu

The way both the predominantly APC legislature (Senate) and the APC Presidency eventually  and  conclusively resolve the naughty twin-issues of confirmation of Ag. Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu and that of the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali over wearing of uniform will conclusively prove or otherwise the commitment  of this administration  to good governance. Nigeria is fast becoming a ‘huge Africa Magic’/ cinema show with last week’s episodic clips featuring star actors on the floor of the Senate with quotable star-words of dubious relevance to a country struggling to get out of recession. After the Senate “has driven away” the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, for failing to appear in uniform and second  time in quick succession, the Senate has refused the confirmation the Ag. EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the interest of yours comradely is purely academic. And talking about being academic, not few  Senators wrongly repeatedly referred to “Customs and Excise” during the acrimonious engagement with Rtrd Col Ali. The point cannot be overemphasized that it is Nigeria Customs Service, NCS not the moribund Board of Customs and Excise!  We have been told as Africans to build strong institutions and not strong men. However last week the Senate inadvertently presented us with its preference for strong ( or is it straw?) men with Ali expected to be in uniform and the Ibrahim Magu to pass the test of two conflicting testimonies about his integrity from the Department of State Services (DSS). Pray what then happens to strong institutions?  Undoubtedly it takes strong persons to build strong institutions, but certainly institutions are both the means and the ends not necessarily the persons as the on going drama in the Senate indicates.

On the  CG Customs, it certainly makes sense that the heads of uniformed government Institutions to be proudly uniformed.  But we need not make fetish of uniforms which the late musical legend  Fela Anikulapo, aptly defined as clothes competently sowed by good Tailors, many of who  are available in my union, National Union of Textile, Garment and tailoring Workers. If the Senators truly want all of  us to appreciate their concern for uniform wearing by CG Customs, they must go beyond the dramatic to serious question of if Customs uniforms in general are made in Nigeria in line with the senate’s commendable promotion of made in Nigeria fabrics. But like any other demand for equity, the senators  must come with clean hands too. Are the fabrics worn by legislators made in Nigeria? Are their own cars made in Nigeria? Are their shoes like the boots of the soldiers made in Aba?  So if you ask me the controversy surrounding the issue of the CG appearing before the Senate in uniform certainly entertains but  unhelpful to the realization of the objectives of 2017 budget one of which is aggressive revenue generation by revenue generating agencies such as Nigeria Customs Service.  And the drama coming at the time The Nigeria Customs Service has announced the suspension of its new policy on payment of import duties on vehicles, most  defaulters being legislators too. At best this controversy is diversionary  coming against the background of major reforms by the Nigeria Customs Service under the leadership of the Col. Hameed Ali (rtd). Please let hold Ali accountable to the proclaimed vision of the Customs Service, namely to “excel in the efficient and timely collection of and accounting for revenue and Implement and  advise  Governmental trade and fiscal policies; Promotion of trade facilitation; among others. Today, we are all witnesses to the remarkable efforts  to live up to its statutory responsibilities. Notable achievements include renewed battle against smuggling of banned items with the recent interception and seizure precisely on January 22, by men of the Service of 661 pieces of pump-action rifles in Lagos. The illegal and very alarming imports, surreptitiously brought into the country through China and routed via Turkey, were reportedly packed in 49 boxes and loaded in a 40-foot container cleverly hidden among other goods, including steel doors. We salute the alertness and sense of duty of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), which apprehended the deadly consignment without which the substantial arms haul would have found its way into Nigeria’s booming market for illicit arms. The decisiveness with which the requisite arms of the NCS moved to apprehend all those involved in the dastardly transaction leading to the arrest of three suspects who were accompanying the arms to its destination, as well as the Customs officials who initially gave the containers a clean bill of health and cleared it to slip through the ports undetected was commendable.

It  is the responsibility of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure all agencies of government namely the security agencies and EFCC work together.  Institutional building is not possible without Institutional harmony.  The repeated nomination of Magu by the Executive and rejections by the Senate on account of security report is difficult to understand.  The burden is on the President to ensure that Institutions of government co-operate and work together for national development. But even at that, the  Senate should be less predictable and vulnerable to the conspiracy theory about their self help rather than national development..  While the senators legitimately  rely on security report to reject the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chair they have not indicated their own position in terms of assessment of the performance of EFCC under Ibrahim Magu as Ag. Chairman of EFCC. Many Nigerians bear witness that EFCC under Magu is doing a good job just as the 8th assembly is doing its best even serial allegations against some of the senators in courts.  Mr. Magu has truly tried to reposition the EFCC since his assumption of office as the head of the anti-corruption agency.  His courage and determination in the war against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria is commendable and should justify the confirmation of his appointment.  The clarion call is for us to kill corruption before it kills Nigeria, not shut down anti- corruption Sheriff which Magu so far is .



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