The National Mirror is reporting that there is a rift between the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun and the powerful comptroller general of customs, Col. Hameed Ali, who is a close ally of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari. As a result of this, there are reports that the federal government may restructure the board of the Customs Service that will remove the powers of the minister of finance as the chairman of the governing board of the Customs Service.
According to the paper:
The Federal Government is concluding plans to embark on a major restructuring of the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service as part of measures to end the lingering supremacy rift between the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Comptroller General of the service Col. Hameed Ali. The duo, it is rumoured, has in the last few weeks been engaging in a silent but fierce cold war over supremacy issues arising from the interpretation of some sections of the Customs and Excise Management Act CEMA.
Competent industry sources hinted that part of the restructuring would remove the powers of the Minister of Finance as chairman of the Governing Board of the service, contrary to the provisions of the CEMA, which is the enabling legislation for the service. Under the new dispensation, the current CG, who is not a serving Customs officer would now report and take orders directly from President Muhammandu Buhari not the Minister of Finance, which is in contravention of relevant sections of CEMA.
It was however not clear as at the time of filing this report who would head the customs board since the powers of the Minister to that effect has been withdrawn by the presidency. This development might create a vacuum in the scheme of things as well as causing some distortions in import and export trade administration in the country. Stakeholders have however argued that apart from the distortions that would trail this current restructuring would cause to the system, it would also destroy the structure of the service itself, since authority flows from the Minister through the board to the management headed by the CG.
"It is enough that the president forced an army officer retired more than 20 years ago on a professional organisation like the nation's Customs Administration in the name of fighting corruption, but move towards making the CG report directly to the president would distort so many things in the international trade administration in Nigeria", a stakeholder who craved anonymity said. According to him, apart from being illegal, the current move would lay a very bad precedence in the system where the CG of the service would report directly to the president of the country, which he insisted was an aberration.
He also wondered that situations arise sometimes when the Minister and the CG of Customs need to take decisions on importexport policies, a role that be played by the president would play now, especially given his tight schedule. This stakeholder however insisted that whatever the president would do in the light of the proposed restructuring would remain in the realm of illegality for now, since he needs to amend relevant sections of the CEMA, which spelt out duties and functions of the Minister as the chairman of the board and the CG, who is the Chief Executive officer of the service.