…. commissions N19.6bn Customs headquarters
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday disclosed that he deliberately closed the country’s land borders to encourage Nigerians to produce food for their consumption.
He also disclosed that his decision to appoint Hameed Ali, a retired military officer as Comptroller General of Customs was deliberate because of his experience and competence.
Buhari stated this on Tuesday while commissioning the newly built N19.6billion Customs headquarters in Abuja.
He said although the move to close the country’s land borders was initially criticized, Nigerians eventually appreciated it.
“Please note that from Lake Chad to Benin Republic is more than 1,600 kilometres, only God can effectively guard the borders. So, you need a person who has the energy and the competence to supervise. I deliberately closed the borders because knowing Nigerians, they order rice, give some to Niger and the rest, and then they bring the rice here.
“Nigeria is favored as a country. We have people, we have land, and weather – how many nations are as lucky as Nigeria in the world, very few nations.
“So, closing that border, 1,600 kilometres, Nigerians insist they eat boiled rice but I said no you either eat what you grow or you die. I tried to make my point and later Nigerians appreciated it because it provided more jobs,” he said.
The President said the late former military head of state, Sani Abacha, gave Ali “problematic” tasks to accomplish when he served as Military governor of Kaduna State.
“As for Hameed Ali, I asked him to be in charge of Customs. No matter what people say about the late Sani Abacha, may his soul rest in peace. He was a colleague in the military but when somehow, he became president of this country, head of state, the biggest problematic area was around Kaduna. So, he picked Colonel Hameed Ali and dumped the problems on him. My decision for Hameed Ali to come to Customs was a deliberate one.
“I brought Colonel Hameed Ali to ensure that I have peace of mind,”he said.
Buhari added that he deliberately appointed a woman as Minister of Finance because he knew that men would naturally find it difficult to approach a woman to look for contracts because of ego and pride.
“I made sure I gave the ministry of finance to a lady to exploit the cultural behaviour of all Nigerians. Once ladies are in charge, people feel too big to go to ladies. So, I am sure peace will be allowed in the Ministry of Finance where people will go and start lobbying for contracts. So, they will feel too big to go to a lady. So, I put a lady there and that gave me a lot of peace,” Buhari said.
On his part, Ali said the new N19.6 billion office complex equipped with modern infrastructure and technology will enhance efficiency of officers and improve service delivery.
He expressed appreciation to the President for his support towards Customs throughout his tenure, saying that the increase in the salaries of Customs personnel has made them less susceptible to corruption.
“We want to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the President for your firm support and commitment to the Nigeria Customs Service throughout your tenure. Your dedication to the development of our nation have been pivotal in shaping the Customs Service.
“Under your guidance, we have witness remarkable milestones that have revolutionized our operations and brought us closer to our goal of becoming a world class customs administration.
“We are particularly grateful for the recent signing of the Customs bill into law bringing and end to the old law which has been in force for the last 63 years.
“We must mention the game-changing intervention of Mr. President to rid the NCS of corruption and put it on a path of integrity. The approval for the 100 percent increase in the remuneration for officers and men of the service decisively address the welfare of officers and make them less susceptible to corruption,” he said.
Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed said the new edifice marks a significant milestone towards a more efficient, modern and robust Customs service.
Speaking, she said, “This monumental edifice stands as a symbol of our unwavering commitment to enhancing the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service to ensure its readiness to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.”