By Eguono Odjegba
THERE are indications that the management of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, is currently investigating some of its officers believed to have enlisted in the Service with forged state of origin and date of birth; both of which are standard official requirement for regular evaluation of personnel.
The development is coming on the heels of reported discovery of discrepancies in the personal data of officers across the rank and file in which two deputy comptrollers general, DCG, are believed to be involved. But constitutional and legal experts have posited that any attempt to pursue issues of state of origin beyond tolerable limits could backfire since citizens’ right under indigenisation law protects them against sanction. They noted that the official emphasis is on nationality and not on state of origin.
“If the said investigation is on falsification of age, those involved have case to answer, because it is criminal to do so. It is not same with state of origin, indigenisation allows citizens to lay claim on their birth states other than their state of progenitors or forebears”, an in-house source knowledgeable in legal matters and who does not want her name mentioned, said.
“When you want to clean the system, your approach must be right and above challenge. A man whose parents are from Borno State born and brought up in Ekiti State can claim Ekiti. He has a right to indigenise and the law protects him. What constitutes a citizen is nationality not state of origin. Is Gen. Sani Abacha ancestrally from Kano State? Is Gen. Ibrahim Babangida from Niger State? So if the probe lays too much emphasis on state of origin, people can challenge unfavourable recommendations made by it”, she posited.
There are concerns in the Customs that some of the geopolitical zones/states whose senior management quota are believed to have been filled by persons with doubtful claim to the zone, are feeling shortchanged, and want a reversal.
While the issue is believed to cut across states and zones nationwide, the present challenge is said to be between the South-South and South East geopolitical zones, in which one of the most senior management staff of DCG rank is currently battling to be off the hook. “By this deliberate and singular act of age and state falsification, the DCG (name withheld) had all these years in the Service fraudulently short-changed and continuously robbed the Southeast geopolitical zone of their rightful national quota and representation in the Nigeria Customs Service”, one of the aggrieved sources said.
The alleged scam was blown up following an investigative exercise conducted by the Human Resources Department on the directive of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (retd), to scrutinise the documents of mid junior cadre officers suspected to have falsified their age and state of origin while entering the Service.
Those in the know of the workings of the Customs informed that the matter is not entirely new to the CGC, further informing that he has known for over two years that the two affected DCGs joined the Service with incorrect state of origin declaration.
While official sources say the idea of the investigative exercise is to purge the Service of corruption in pursuit of the CGC’s reform agenda, independent sources described the current probe as nothing short of vain glorification, cheap publicity or official propaganda.
A source at the NCS public relations department has, however, denied knowledge of the said probe.