The Trial of Hameed ‘Netanyahu’ Ali

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Simon Kolawolelive!, Email: simon.kolawoe@thisdaylive.com

Retired Col. Hameed Ali was sitting gently on his sofa and watching TV on August 27, 2015 when some news flashed on the screen: he had been appointed the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). He was shocked. The previous day, he was with President Muhammadu Buhari and had not the slightest idea that he was going to be appointed CG. As a long-time associate of the president, Ali was expecting to be made chief of staff a position he had served Buhari for years in various presidential campaigns or chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He could not make sense of the customs appointment.
As the story goes, he was heavily disappointed. He refused to get in touch with Buhari for nearly two weeks. He wanted to turn down the job, according to those who were close to him. The rumour was that he had actually turned down the job. For weeks, David Atte, a deputy comptroller-general, held the fort to fill the vacuum left by Abdullahi Dikko Inde’s retirement. Rumours that Ali had rejected the appointment were not helped by his refusal to make public comments or report for duty. It took the intervention of many top APC politicians from the north to sway the former military administrator of Kaduna state.  
To persuade the reluctant Ali, they told him how NCS was one of the most corrupt government agencies in the world. Ali hates the word “corruption”. Any assignment to tackle corruption would get him excited any day. As a military administrator in a very corrupt system, he had the distinction of riding the same weather-beaten car for 10 years after leaving office. This is not a typical Nigerian story. Maybe that was what Buhari saw in him and decided to saddle him with the customs job. It was one of those appointments in the early days of this government that made people think “change” was for real.
As icing on the cake, a senator from the north-east explained to Ali that NCS was one of the biggest revenue-generating agencies. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is the king in the ring. Then the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). And the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). And the Nigeria Customs Service. “If you clean up customs,” the senator reportedly told him, “then you are cleaning up Nigeria… Nigerians will feel the impact instantly.” He was promised a team of experts and consultants to guide him through this strange territory to help him navigate the intricacies in a dirty world laden with explosives and mafias. He then changed his mind.
What Ali was not told, I presume, is that it would be lovely for him to wear the jersey. You are the No. 1 customs officer in Nigeria, you enjoy all the powers and perks of office, you make all the policy pronouncements, you do and undo and then claim that because you retired as a military officer, you cannot wear the uniform. You retired as a colonel, yet a man who retired as a major general, Anthony Hananiya by far your senior wore the uniform of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) as corps marshal under a military regime. The least demand you can make of a CG is to show that he is proud of the jersey. It doesn’t look that complicated in my view.
The uniform saga, unfortunately, has beclouded the real issue: Ali’s directive that all motorists must produce evidence of import duty paid on cars bought before 2015. This is certainly one of the most repressive directives ever issued by a government agency. There is no country in the world where that happens. It is called import duty for a purpose it is the importer that has to show evidence that the importation followed due process. If I walk up to a car dealer and buy a car, I am an end user having nothing to do with the importation process. Why compound the woes of Nigerian motorists who are already battling with bad roads and high cost of spare parts?
What in the world was Ali thinking when he came up with this directive? Is it to combat smuggling? Where in the world does customs collect import duty on highways? If you want to combat smuggling, maybe you should pay more attention to your borders. There are more intelligent and brain-tasking ways of doing it in this age and time. The lazy way out is to set a trap for unsuspecting motorists by allowing extortionist customs officers to terrorise them on the highways. The original date of enforcement coincides with Easter and you can imagine the massive disruption to travel at that particular period. Everything is wrong with the idea.
If this oppressive directive is restored (it has only been temporarily suspended, we were told), then customs will stop you one day and demand the import duty on your mobile phone. It may sound ridiculous, but it is the same principle the phone was imported and unless you show evidence that you paid import duty, it will be impounded. That is how it starts. Give customs an inch and they will take a yard. They will soon start asking for evidence of import duty on your shirts, shoes and wristwatches. After all, it is not only cars that are smuggled into the country? Why then is  import duty on cars the focus of the directive?
That Ali was not properly prepared for the customs job has been very evident in the way he has been going round in circles since 2015. Today, he will announce a ban on the land importation of rice into the country. Tomorrow, he will reverse the ban and set up border posts for payment of duties on imported rice. The day after tomorrow, he will say the ban is restored. These ill-conceived policies make us a laughing stock in the world. It is one thing for the government to say it wants to make doing business in Nigeria “easy” apparently to please the World Bank and international investors, but it is another thing entirely that we flip-flop on policies with relish.
As far as I am concerned, the uniform saga is a complete distraction. The senate has left the real issue of “import duty” and is now more obsessed with “uniform on duty”. If I were Ali, I would wear the uniform to the senate and put the devil to shame. I won’t die because of a “dirty” uniform. I would just go back home and wash myself with warm water and Dettol thereafter. But Ali is so rigid he would not contemplate such a thing. His nickname is “Netanyahu” or “Mr No Compromise” after the stubborn Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Remember Ali was in the military police. He was provost-marshal of the army at some point. You don’t mess around with him.
Ali’s refusal to wear the CG uniform is nothing but military arrogance. Some (not all) of these military guys think they are superior to every other human being. They used to call us “bloody civilians” when they were in power. The mentality has not changed. That is why a band of soldiers would brutalise a physically challenged man for wearing a “camouflage” and all they got as punishment was a slap on the wrist. Some years ago, soldiers burnt down the police barracks at Ojuelegba, Lagos, and nothing came out of it. They think they can do anything and get away with it. So how on earth can you force a whole retired colonel to wear the uniform of customs? Infra dignitatem!
The real issue, in the final analysis, is Ali’s performance as CG. That is my own worry. He’s fighting corruption in the service quite all right, but as Nigerians now know, fighting corruption is not a substitute for good policies and good governance. Ali keeps getting things wrong, moving from one bad idea to the other. This has the potential to do more damage to the economy. He can wear the CG uniform for all we care and hate corruption perfectly, but the ultimate indicator of his success will be how well he is leading the very important agency in this age and time when the economy needs to stand on strong footing. Is he up to the task? That’s the question.
 
QUOTE ===========================
“The real issue, in the final analysis, is Ali’s performance as CG. That is my own worry. He’s fighting corruption in the service quite all right, but as Nigerians now know, fighting corruption is not a substitute for good policies and good governance”
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AND FOUR OTHER THINGS
 
MAGU’S TRAVAIL
Let’s be honest there was relief across Nigeria’s political and financial circles on Wednesday when the senate refused to confirm Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC. The guy has been a pain in their fat necks in the last 14 months, forcing politicians, bankers and military officers to cough out billions of naira and dollars swallowed from the national treasury. Although I quarrel with his preferred style of media trials and concentration on non-APC offenders, he at least bloodied the noses of our erstwhile untouchable elite. But I knew our almighty elite would not sit by and watch Magu continue to mangle them just like that. Revenge.
 
‘EDITOR’ OSBORNE
Former UK chancellor, George Osborne, has just been appointed editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper on a £200k-a-year package. The Tory MP was at some point touted as a future prime minister until David Cameron lost the Brexit vote in 2016 and resigned, with Osborne also falling on his sword. But that’s not my interest. Osborne was the equivalent of our finance minister and was practically the deputy prime minister. If it were to be Nigeria, he would not step down to take a paid job; rather, he would form “Forum of Former Chancellors” and begin to angle for contracts at federal and state levels, going from state to state to harass governors. Parasites.
 
‘ENGINEER’ BUKAR
There is this moving story in TheCable on a young man named Babagana Bukar, “The boy who refused to join Boko Haram, says I watched them slaughter my father.” Three things struck me about Bukar’s story. One, he watched his father killed by the insurgents in Rann, Borno state, in 2014 when he was just 14. Two, he refused to join Boko Haram, riding a bicycle all the way to Chad to escape from the killings. Three, he is called “engineer” because of his dexterity in fixing phones despite having not been so trained. That aspect breaks me down emotionally. Only God knows how many future engineers have been cut down by Boko Haram. Pathetic.
 
TOR TIV THRONE
Recently, 30-year-old man Stephen Nyitse bizarrely went to sit on the revered throne of the Tor Tiv before the coronation of Prof Orchivirigh James Ayatse as the new king. Nyitse was promptly arrested, detained and charged to court by our super efficient police force. Within three days, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment by the highly efficient Justice P. S. Chaha for trespass and impersonation. In addition, Nyitse will be banished from Tivland after his time in prison (banishment in a republic?) Meanwhile, thousands of theft, murder and land cases still languish in courts. Awaiting trial suspects practically grow old in prison. Efficiency.
  • Daniel Obior

    Buhari has a government in his own image. Ali fits so perfectly with this perception. Ex-army, believer in strong arm tactics of “immediate effect” without the intellectual capacity and brains for meaningful analysis of situations, arrogant and condescending. Has barely transformed himself since leaving the army where he was only equipped with the control and command mode of seeing the world, a world which fortunately has moved on several decades under a technological transformation, leaving him so far behind in his ignorance and incompetence. Yet, his misplaced pride and stubborn disposition make him lose every opportunity to see the real world. Such men are only good at dragging things to their level. How would Ali care what pains people suffer as a result of his stupid and senseless policies? On the other hand, he will feel more satisfied and contented with himself that he has made himself god over those people, since God has refused to so anoint him. That is the type of self help that propel such men to do the ugly things they do. Unfortunately, Nigeria is a perfect environment for such perfidy.

    • Bundepuun Iordye

      Your analysis is rich.how I wish we can get it right in this country after understanding these things.

  • Jon West

    Hammed Ali hates the word corruption? Really? And this is still news in Nigeria? Times without number on this forum, I have tried to educate gullible Nigerians on the modus operandi of the Fulani elite , since their unfortunate(for Nigerians and Africans)19th century arrival in Nigeria. The modus is really quite simple and I must aplogise for overflogging it, but here we go again.

    First accuse the leaders of a people (or organisation) of corruption and set the people (staff) after them. In the resulting confusion, you offer your services as an anti-corruption fighter and promise to lead the people(organisation) to an honest utopian state. After getting power, you then perpetrate the worst kind of corruption, while still mouthing the anticorruption mantra. It is a proven route to power for the Fulanis and to their great credit, it has always worked for them in Nigeria, but tellingly, it failed disastrously for them in their native Guinea, where they are now a Pariah people.
    But then , Nigeria, the Lugardian Zoo, is always a ready dumping ground for fake products and more importantly, fake ideas.

    When the story of both the Certificateless One and his Customs side-kick, Hameed Ali is written , the application of this well-used modus operandi for capture and abuse of power will be the defining political lesson of Fulani incursion into current Nigerian politics.

    Any discerning person will have noticed that the anticorrutption crusade of the Certificateless One is one huge charade, considering his sojourn in the murky waters of the economic rent-seeking environment that is Nigerian politics- $2.8 billion scandal in NNPC, while he was the Minister of Petroleum, N25 Billion scam at the PTF while he was the head and his brother-in-law , the late and unmourned Salihijo Ahmed, as the sole administrator; the acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars and SUVs from Dasuki from his slush fund and finally the Grasscutter scandal of his Scretary to the Government. Meanwhile, in keeping with the tradition of his Fula people, he tries very hard to present an ascetic aura that happily is now wearing very thin.

    The trouble with Nigeria, is that journalists like the fawning Simon Kolawole, are too busy looking for jobs in a system that their profession mandates them to investigate permanently and call to order , on behalf of the Nigerian people. That is why a former Chancellor of the Exchequer ( Finance Minister) in the U.K., George Osborne will prefer the noble role of a journalist ,to the lobbying opportunities that his previous role in Government presents, because of his awareness of the role of the media in national development, a realization that permanently eludes our own practitioners of the noble profession of journalism, like the discredited Simon (The Genuflecting One) Kolawole. The difference as we say in these climes, is quite clear.
    To hell with Nigerian hypocrisy!!

    • Tony Oshea

      Hameed Ali was sec-gen of ACF and that typically confers on him “above the laws” status.Jon,I crave your indulgence to modify the origin of Fulanis as against common knowledge. My historical excursion reveals that Fulanis actually originated from North Africa( Tuaregs and Berbers),migrated southwards via Mali,enroute Futa Djallon,where they acquired the appelation and subsequently dispersed to nigeria. Their modus operandi is conquer,convert,colonise and confiscate by means of coercive force.They probably share common DNA with the Gaddafis of this world.”Hameed Ali hates the word corruption” ,but ironically he, like his benefactor, wallows in its miry clay. There is a popular saying that “avians of identical plumage,invariably conglomerates at the nearest proximity”. His principal was enmeshed in the controversial missing $2.8 billion from Midland bank of UK by 1978/79 while superintending the ministry of petroleum. Propped by that success, he plunged deeper into the PTF funds,emerging with another allegation(indictment by OBJ panel) of gross abuse,misappropriation and misapplication of the fund.Attempts by mercenary journalist to ‘ bleach the spots off a leopard’ is tantamount to hogwash.Hammed Ali,either by association or vicarious responsibility, is not immune from corruption. Simon hit the bulls eye,in asserting that Ali could borrow a leaf from General Hananaya.His recalcitrance stems from the erroneous perception that Fulanis are morally superior to other Nigerians and therefore should NEVER subject themselves to dress codes or codes of conduct established by the institutional symbol of democracy-NASS.

      • Jon West

        Thanks for the historical perspective. These sahelian ragheads have a terrible history and are destined for extinction.

        • Tony Oshea

          Amen brother!

  • 0swal0

    “The real issue, in the final analysis, is Ali’s performance as CG. That is my own worry. He’s fighting corruption in the service quite all right, but as Nigerians now know, fighting corruption is not a substitute for good policies and good governance. Ali keeps getting things wrong, moving from one bad idea to the other. This has the potential to do more damage to the economy. He can wear the CG uniform for all we care and hate corruption perfectly, but the ultimate indicator of his success will be how well he is leading the very important agency in this age and time when the economy needs to stand on strong footing. Is he up to the task? That’s the question.”

    This essentially the problem with the entire Buhari administration. They all (Buhari inclusive) claim to hate corruption but are ill equipped/ill prepared to lead the country and the various agencies they have been appointed to. They are even unable to evolve sustainable ways to deal with the corruption that they so hate!

    • Jon West

      They dont hate corruption. They only want to appropriate it , to serve their own interests. From Ahmadu Bello to Murtala Mohammed, Shagari, Umoru Yaradua, Emir Sanusi of Kano, the Sultan, the message is always the same- We hate corruption, but as the Emir himself readily admitted recently, he is a beneficiary of corruption from CBN Forex allocations. However, since the Emir’s people are now the Government, it’s alright now, like The Rolling Stones song captured.

      When will the inhabitants of this human Zoo get the message?

    • remm ieet

      It appears as if Buhari’s handlers think all Nigerians are nincompoops.

  • rayden

    Hmm, Simon. Your description of Ali’s style of pushing forward his ideas and reforms is a reflection of how your hero buhari goes about with his reforms. Ali’s failures can be likened to how woeful buhari has performed.

    However, am amazed that you have been unable to draw any similarity between these two individuals.

  • Mystic mallam

    Simon, from what you have expressed about this Ali man, please educate us further on the difference, if any, between him [Ali] and the man [Buhari] who hand picked him to lead a crucial revenue-making department of government that he knew absolutely nothing about.

  • MDG2020

    Please I am still at a lost at how a man can be doing well in the area of fighting corruption without a well thought out policy and vision to drive it?
    Under buhari and his imbecilic goons, Fighting corruption has been reduced to: accuse, arrest (indefinitely), confiscate, and then leave the media and gullible public to be the judge.
    Shame on simon and his co travellers that foisted this relics on a 21st century Nigeria.
    Thank God my seeds are not being raised under a wicked atmosphere like the this.

  • RumuPHC

    While it’s clear that Hamid Ali is not engaging both the public and Senators well enough , what cannot be taken away from him as CG is the vigor and drive to rid the service of corruption . I suppose this is what is most needed in Nigeria today and not any fancy talk about policies.

    Seeking to compel vehicle owners to pay custom duties on vehicle considered not properly cleared appear ridiculous but we have heard many industry sources in support of it.

    Certainly no one can stop a government official whenever he chooses to implementing the law and no one should , Hamid Ali will need to consider a better approach to implementing such directive. Customs can bill clearing agents for any unpaid duty on their data base while individuals can be asked to pay such duties whenever the vehicle license is proceeded for renewal.

    Of all it is the issue of wearing uniform that is difficult to understand. Where is it written the the CG of Customs must be in uniform and why should a legislative body compel anyone in a uniform service to appear in his uniform?
    We are yet to see the particular statute where it is stated that uniforms are to be worn by all customs personnel neither are we shown where the Senate is empowered to determine dressing of public servants .

    When is a complete traditional dress no more an acceptable dressing in the parliament of Nigeria?

    • Jon West

      Where is the evidence of this vigour and drive to rid the Customs Services of corruption? Why is it that anytime a Northerner is the head of a department, he/she wears this contrived anti-corruption toga and is extolled by the Southern press – Ribadu, Magu, Hameed Ali, the Certficateless One and before them Ishaya Bamaiyi of NDLEA, Colonel Santuraki of Nitel etc, only to be found later to be unbelievably corrupt? When will the Fulanis stop fooling the inhabitants of this human Zoo? Really sickening!!

      • RumuPHC

        Perhaps you may need to confirm from those at the receiving end of his anti corruption drive.

        Anyway I understand your bitterness ….it’s difficult to erase the memories of the terrible civil war.

        My only problem is why you chose to continue to dwell in this “zoo” and even concern yourself with every discussions related to the “zoo” ?

        • Jon West

          You dont have any terrible memories, my dear man, but a terrible reality, and that is the worst thing to happen to any human being. Goodluck to you and your ilk living in denial. Hope you love your sojourn in the Zoo. By the way, I am an anthropologist, so my continued interest in this human zoo should be understandable.

  • Maigari

    It is somewhat ironic that the ;real issues; in the Customs seem to have been obfuscated by the uniform saga and the personality of the CG degenerating into the ethnic bashing fora.
    For one the root of the ;directive’ was said to be the Target set for the revenue the Custom Service is expected to generate for Nigeria and herein lies the devil-in-the-detail.
    Who sets the target and what previous and existing parametres were used?This question is pertinent because for several years now, all revenue generating MDAs are given target which seem to be go up just like our age. All the previous targets were met and the media was inundated by the glorious reports of the achievers. Really?
    Why is it that there were lower paradigms before for the MDAs since the economy being awash with crude-oil sales dollars?
    Then there was this story of the Customs confiscating a very expensive bullet proof car said to be for the senate president. If the car was bought from the impoverished public treasury then the Customs have no business asking for duties. That comes when the car is sold to a private individual who then pays whatever the appropriate duty may be. That was said to be the hidden cause of the face-off not any concern for the unreasonableness of the directive from the Customs CG. How far back can Nigerians be asked to produce duty certificate for cars that may have been on 5o the third or even fourth user? Certainly there seems to be reason for the Public to re-read the whole saga instead of this rather puny ethnic bashing which serves no real purpose as many commentators seem to opine.

    • LagLon

      the day we see an igbo/ ijaw/ even yoruba man running a uniformed office in traditional clothing.. i will agree with you!!

      • Maigari

        That also is an opinion but is it that those who you know and opine for are so unsure that they must always be seen in Uniform to function effectively as Nigerian officers without a uniform? Besides what really has Col Alis ethnic origin got to do with his functions? That’s the question I asked not his uniforms sir. Besides there are Excise officers also in the Customs who rarely put on uniforms.

        • LagLon

          ..his behavior is the nigerian equivalent of white mans privilege.
          ..its not about ‘rarely’ its about ‘refuses’.
          ..unnecessary and largely disrespectful posturing from a ‘public SERVANT’…

  • musa aliyu

    From start to finish this story stinks of lies! How comes.Ali had to go to Customs Training School for two weeks before his appointment? This shows he knew about the appointment and was willing to take it. Every other thing said stinks. Mtchewww

  • “Korede

    Dear Simon, permit me to disagree with you on Col Hammed Ali. You cannot just wake up and say he is arrogant for not wearing CG custom uniform. This is an assumption that was sold to many people including you. How on earth do you think the CG custom position is less important to that of a retired Colonel in the army? I want you to restrict yourself to the substance of the debate and leave out the uniform issue. I think everybody should have a choice as a right provided the person is not running foul of any law of the land.