EXCLUSIVE: Former Customs boss contradicts Hameed Ali on uniform controversy

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A former Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service, Bello Haliru, on Tuesday said he wore the uniform of the agency while in office, even though he was a political appointee and not a career officer.

Cross Section of Customs New Management Team
Cross Section of Customs New Management Team

Mr. Haliru was the first CG to be appointed outside the service in 1988 by the former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.

He led the agency until 1994 when former military ruler, Sani Abacha, relieved him of the role.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Haliru, who is also a former Minister of Communications from 2001 to 2003, said he was duty-bound to obey all the rules and regulations of the agency following his appointment.

“The moment I was appointed, I became a career Customs officer,” Mr. Haliru said. “I knew I must comply with all rules and regulations of the organisation I am leading and that included wearing a uniform.”

Mr. Haliru said he was proud to lead Customs and appreciated the opportunity given to him by the country to serve.

The comments came amid raging controversy over current CG of Customs’ refusal to wear the agency’s uniform.

Since his appointment in August 2015, Hamid Ali has rebuffed pressure on him to wear the khaki, saying last week that he was “not appointed Comptroller-General to wear uniform.”

Asked to weigh in on the matter, Mr. Haliru said he did not have sufficient knowledge about Mr. Ali’s appointment.

“It depends on the terms of his employment,” Mr. Haliru said. “I don’t know the terms of his employment.”

“But as for me, when I was tapped to lead Customs, having accepted, I had to comply with all the Customs regulations.”

“Wearing uniform is part of the service regulation. When you accept the appointment, you’re subject to the service regulations,” he said.

Mr. Ali, a former army colonel, was also reported to have said that uniformed men do not wear uniform twice.

But a PREMIUM TIMES findings revealed this to be unfounded.

Haladu Hananiya, a former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, wore uniform of the agency following his appointment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This was despite the fact that Mr. Hananiya retired from the Nigerian Army as a major-general years before his appointment to the FRSC.

A spokesman for the Nigerian Customs Service, Joseph Attah, declined comments about the uniform controversy Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Attah told PREMIUM TIMES he preferred to speak on the activities of Mr. Ali since he assumed office rather than dissipate energy over uniform.

“He was appointed from outside the service to carry out three mandates,” Mr. Attah said. “He was appointed to restructure, reform and raise revenue for the country and he has been found to have performed greatly.”

Mr. Attah said Mr. Ali had changed the face and performance of Customs.

“I will rather talk about how Customs has been faring under him.

“Under him, a lot of repositions had taken place. There’s a reinvigoration now in all departments and corruption is being fought from every angle in the service.

“We have zero-tolerance for corruption and have also tried so much in the area of revenue generation.

“You’re aware of the pump action rifles that we intercepted a few weeks ago.

“There are the kinds of things we should be talking about,” Mr. Attah said.

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