‘This is to inform you that my thirty-two and a half year career with the NCS has come to an end effectively from today, July 21, 2020, through compulsory retirement.
“I wish to sincerely appreciate all my colleagues, serving and retired, especially our elders as well as all family members, friends, and well-wishers who have fervently been with me physically, in spirit, called, text to appreciate my little contribution to our fatherland. Thank you very much indeed. I also seek the forgiveness of those I offended by commission, omission, or otherwise as I forgive all. May our lives after death is more worthy than our present.
“To those still in the service, I wish you a happy exit at your most appropriate time, Ameen. Long live Nigeria Customs Service! Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
These were the parting words of Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Abubakar, who was retired under bizarre and controversial circumstances recently by the Board of the Nigeria Customs.
The sad end of a hitherto flourishing career of Bashir Abubakar is, if anything, a clear indication of a society where honesty and loyalty do not pay any more. Having served as controller Post Clearance Audit, Lagos, Onne and Apapa Area Commands of the Nigerian Customs Service among other landmark assignments, ACG Bashir Abubakar was among the few officers who industry stakeholders had looked upon to take over the mantle of leadership at Customs House, Abuja, once the incumbent helmsman, Hameed Ali, runs out his tenure as comptroller general of Customs.
Very knowledgeable, skilled, and a great team player, he had everything going for him until recently when he fell out of favor with his bosses in Abuja. Signs that all was not well with him by the top echelon of the service started to rear its head when on his deployment as CAC, Onne, he decided to turn things around for the Command. Not only did he raise the bar in revenue collection, but he also set a new timeline and template in speedy clearance of cargo to the admiration of stakeholders.
Just when Abuja felt they have seen the best of ‘Bash’ as he was popularly called, he woke up one morning to a new reality. Bash was no longer impressed with the Onne Command Office and promptly sought the approval of CGC Hameed Ali for a more befitting edifice for the center of Oil and Gas Operations in Nigeria. And in partnership with stakeholders, Bash, in a record time constructed a befitting new office building for the Command. But rather than applaud him for this initiative, those who had the ears of the CGC made it practically impossible for Hameed Ali to pick a date for the commissioning of the new office building.
And for the period this back and forth lasted, the powers that be at Customs House, Wuse, Abuja, who were no longer comfortable with the rising profile of Bashir Abubakar prevented Hameed Ali from visiting Onne to commission the new edifice. This they succeeded in doing until the call of duty found Bashir being transferred to Apapa as an area controller.
He had barely resumed in Apapa when they took trade compliance and revenue generation to an unprecedented height. Like in Onne, Bashir received accolades from CGC Hameed Ali for making the service proud. The high point of his success story was his rejection of over $400,000 bribe by some unpatriotic Nigerians who wanted to circumvent our import laws.
This feat attracted both local and international accolades with Shipping World magazine naming him as Mr. Integrity. This feat also attracted the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari who last year bestowed on him an integrity award at the Villa, the first of such award to a serving customs officer. But rather than draw applause from his colleagues at Customs House, a negative narrative was being sold to CGC Hameed Ali that Bashir Abubakar wanted his job at all cost.
Sooner than later, this dummy found a place in CGC Hameed Ali’s heart as he was marked out for being over-ambitious. Fifth columnists at Customs House openly accused him of “buying” the Presidential Award, a claim Bash vehemently denied. It did not take long before the plot to oust Bashir Abubakar unfold. A retired Deputy Comptroller General of Customs who confided in me recently that “from the day Bashir picked up that award from Mr. President at the Villa, those who wanted him out of Customs House started to lay the land mines”.
Another officer said: “His transfer from being Secretary of the Customs Board to Kaduna as zonal coordinator was a response to his rising profile in Abuja and fears that the powers that be at the seat of power were looking at the prospects of Bash and a few others who were allegedly shortlisted to be next CGC. So it was no surprise, therefore, that he was roped in that controversial raid of the rice warehouse in Katsina.
“It was all an attempt to look for a bad name to hang on a dog,” a retired CGC said. Some stakeholders who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the action by the Board was a sore point that would dampen the morale of officers and men in the life of the Service.
A serving comptroller said, “This will kill patriotism among officers. You can imagine if Bash had collected the $400,000 bribe money, his life would not be the same again. Now, ask me how much will the Service pay to him as gratuity and pension?’’ he queried.