Top Customs officer sacked for exposing N1.3bn fraud

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A retired Comptroller of Customs, Abdullahi Bello Gusau, has revealed how he was unlawfully sacked by the Customs authorities four days after he uncovered over a N1.3 billion fraud

He uncovered the fraud through an online audit of the Single Good Declaration, SGD, audit form.

Gusau made the revelation in a letter of petition against the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, rtd.

The petition addressed to Minister of Finance and Chairman, Nigeria Customs Service Board, stated that Compt Gusau was retired prematurely four days after he uncovered the fraud through Post Clearance Audit, PCA, at the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, headquarters in Abuja.

The illegal retirement was contested and went to apex court where Compt Gusau emerged victorious after the Supreme Court’s final judgement in April 2017. In the letter of petition signed by Barr. G.T. Afolabi, of Olugbenga Afolabi & Associates, on behalf of Compt Gusau, it stated that the supreme court judgement mandated the CG and NCS to reinstate Compt Bello Gusau, but the CG refused to comply.

The Supreme Court, in a copy of the judgement delivered in April, 7, by Justice Ejembi Eko, and made available to journalists by the victim, affirmed the Appeal Court’s judgement including the consequential orders, and mandated the CG to reinstate Gusau together with all the consequential orders of the supreme court of Nigeria as contained in the judgement.

The apex court also made declarations that the purported retirement of the plaintiff (Bello Gusau) by the second defendant (Customs) is unlawful, malicious, irregular and fragrant violation of the plaintiff right of employment until the mandatory retirement age.

The Supreme Court’s five-man panel of justices, headed by the CJN, Walter S.N Onnoghen, also made an order affirming the Appeal Court’s judgement and the purported retirement of the plaintiff by first and 2second defendant’s public notice as unlawful.

The court also ordered the defendant to allow the Compt. Gusau to resume work and also maintain his positions as comptroller of customs and be paid all his benefits and emoluments and enjoy his lawful promotions.

The judgement and orders of the supreme court of Nigeria were duly served on the CG of customs on the 10th,13th, and 21st of April, 2017, respectively, and also acknowledged receipts, but same was not complied with. Till the time of filing this reports, customs is yet to formalise the reinstatement and promotion of Comptroller Gusau by way of serving him with reinstatement letter and letter of promotion, and subsequent decoration of his new rank.

Similarly, the salary arrears, emoluments and other entitlements have also not be paid to Compt Gusau. The Attorney General of Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, in his magnanimity, had written many letters to the CG advising him to comply with the judgement but were equally disregarded.

The AGF, in a letter dated April 25 with reference no. PE.1/S.221/P.66, advised the Ali to comply with the orders of the Supreme Court, but it was ignored. According to a letter of reminder to the CG, copied to the finance minister, the AGF, acting president and other relevant authorities to comply with the judgement, Comptroller Gusau spent more than 16 years on the rank of comptroller without promotion due to the illegal premature retirement and victimisation he was subjected to. The letter stressed that going by the scheme of service for customs service, Gusau should have been promoted to the rank of ACG by June, 2009 and be paid his arrears of monthly salaries, benefits, emoluments and all his relevant entitlement.

“Our client was unlawfully retired premature on December 21, 2009, more than seven years ago by the former CG of cCustoms, Dikko Inde, who was arrested by the EFCC over allegations of N42 billion fraud, and diversion of public funds of N40 billion from customs coffers, criminal conspiracy, theft, abuse of offices and living above his legitimate means. Dikko Inde refunded N1 billion, according to a national daily.

“Ever since the Supreme Court delivered the above mentioned judgement in favour of Gusau with regard to his illegal retirement, both CGC Ali, the minister of finance and chairman, NCS Board have continue to delay, ignore and refuse to comply with the supreme court judgement and consequential orders contained therein, being duly notified of, and aware of the adjudication.

“Despite several letters of reminders we wrote to the CGC, and finance minister requesting for compliance with supreme court judgement, over five months ago, they refused to comply”, the solicitors added.

They also added that going by the scheme of service for customs service, NCS rules and regulations and condition of service for customs service, it’s unjustifiable to deny Gusau lawful promotions, and granted accelerated promotion to Compt. Gusau’s junior colleagues who hail from the same geographical zone with him.

The above mentioned promotions enjoyed by Compt Gusau’s juniors from the same zone in 2004, 2007 and 2008, were again granted accelerated promotion between 2012 and 2015 to ACG, GL16 and DCG consolidated. CC Bello Gusau’s purported retirement from customs years ago occurred four (4) days after he uncovered over N1. 3 billion fraud through online audit through Single Goods Declaration Audit, SGD, form when he was Comptroller Post Clearance, PCA, at the customs headquarters, Abuja, in December, 2009.

“I audited only 20 SGDs online and discover gross underpayment of import duty revenue amounting to over N1.3 billion at Apapa port area command while over hundreds of SGDs forms where generated daily in the command”, he revealed.

Contacted, Compt. Gusau explained that when he reported at the headquarters after supreme court judgement, the legal adviser and secretary to the NCS board said they were going to write and serve him with retirement letter, instead of formalizing the reinstatement and promotion, by serving him letter of reinstatement and that of promotion, inline with the court judgement.

It would be recalled that Gusau challenged the unlawful retirement of his permanent and pensionable appointment at the Federal High Court, Abuja where he emerged victorious.

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