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Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector have demanded the immediate investigation of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) following financial irregularities allegation levied against him over the approval of N1.6billion to recruit 3,200 job seekers in the ongoing employment exercise by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

They asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to wade into the matter.

This is even as others called for a public hearing on the matter.

Speaking on Tuesday with newsmen on the issue, the former National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA)- Olayiwola Shittu urged agencies of government with forensic capabilities to investigate the allegation.

According to Shittu, “This is an allegation coming from the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, who retired as a Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG) from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), so this kind of allegation should not be thrown under the carpet.

“When people that ought to know about issues speak out on fraudulent activities, then the authorities need to do the needful and investigate it properly.

“We cannot say because the Customs CG is always harping on the fight against corruption, so such allegation should not be investigated. We are talking about activities of Customs, which always involves huge sums of public funds.

“Government agencies with forensic capabilities like the EFCC, ICPC should wade in and investigate the matter.”

Also speaking on the matter, the National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero called for a Public Hearing on the allegation.

In his words, “The man who made that allegation is number two in a Senate committee that oversights the Customs, so there should be a public hearing on the matter as well as a thorough investigation by concerned agencies of government.

“Don’t let’s forget that Senator Fadahunsi served in the Customs for years and rose through the ranks to the position of a DCG, so he might have information that we might not have. Therefore, the issue should be subjected to thorough investigation.”

For the Vice President of ANLCA, Mr Kayode Farinto, such an allegation is too weighty to be discarded.

“Yes, I read the story and I am still surprised that no government agency is looking at the allegation, or even investigating it.

“The person that made that allegation is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who retired as a DCG from the NCS.

“Currently, he is the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, so I don’t want to believe that he will just open his mouth to speak on such sensitive issues when there is nothing.

“The allegation should be investigated, and if found to be untrue, then the Senator should be made to face the consequences of his action.”

It would be recalled that the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Senator Ade Fadahunsi had accused the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, of paying a whopping sum of N1.6 billion to a consultant for the recruitment of 3,200 personnel into the service.

Fadahunsi, who is a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs and current Senator representing Osun East Senatorial District, said, “The CG wants to recruit 3,200 persons and he paid N1.6 billion to a consultant to recruit 3,200 persons. The money is not for training but to just recruit them.

“I asked him if the Nigerian Army ever used consultants to recruit personnel and he said no. He said Customs officers are corrupt and he is bringing in a consultant to recruit 3,200 persons and he will pay the firm N1.6 billion.

“Are you recruiting five million people? The N1.6 billion is even in the budget and that is one of the reasons the budget was being queried by the leadership of the Senate.”

In a swift response, the National Customs public relations officer- DC Joseph Attah said “The N1.6bn naira being quoted for recruitment of 3,200 people into the Nigeria Customs Service without the details captured in the budget is quite misleading.

For clarity, the correct figure is N1.57billion.

This covers the recruitment process which is N300,000.000, feeding 0f 3,200 put at N2000 each, daily for 6 months amounting to N1, 152,000,000.

Then Logistics, training kits and teaching allowances all carefully calculated to arrive at the N1,570,769,000.00.

It is, therefore, wrong to attribute the sum to only the recruitment excluding the bigger picture of 6 months training period.

On the issue of NCS new headquarters, variations of the contract that was awarded in 2006 can only be a consequence of changes in the prices of items within a period spanning over a decade.

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