By ACHADU GABRIEL, Kaduna
More than six months after the Supreme Court judgement and order mandating the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), to reinstate Comptroller Abdullahi Bello Gusau who was retired prematurely, the CG Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has failed to comply with the judgement.
Known for high integrity, Col. Ali’s action seems to have surprisingly further justified the popular notion of total disregard to judicial pronouncements of the current administration of the ruling All progressive Congress (APC), and its leadership headed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
An appointee of Buhari, the NCS boss was mandated by judgement of Supreme Court of Nigeria to reinstate Compt Bello Gusau back into the Nigeria Customs Services on grounds that his retirement from the service violated all constitutional procedures and requirements.
Supreme Court, in a copy of the judgement delivered in April, 7, 2017, by Justice Ejembi Eko, and made available to journalists in Kaduna, affirmed 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 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’s right of employment until the mandatory retirement age.
Supreme Court’s 5-man panel of Justice, headed by CJN, Walter S.N Onnoghen, also made an order affirming Appeal Court’s judgement and the purported retirement of the plaintiff by 1st and 2nd defendant’s public notice as unlawful.
The Court therefore, ordered the defendant to allow Compt. Gusau to resume work and also maintain his position as Comptroller of Customs and be paid all his benefits and emoluments and enjoy his lawful promotions.
The judgement and order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria were duly served on the CG of customs on the 10th,13th, and 21st days of April, 2017, respectively, and also acknowledged receipts, but same was not complied with.
Till the time of filing this report, Cudtoms was 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 been paid to Compt Gusau.
The Attorney General of thr 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.
For instance, AGF, in a letter dated April 25th 2017, with reference no. PE.1/S.221/P.66, advised the CG Customs, Col. Ali to comply with the orders of the Supreme Court, but same were ignored.
According to letters of reminder written to the CG, and copied Finance Minister, 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 victimization he was subjected to.
The letter further 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.
A letter signed by G.T. Afolabi (Esq) of Olugbenga Afolabi & Associates, Counsel and solicitors to the victim, averred that their client was unlawfully retired premature on 21st December 2009, adding that the whole thing was done in bad faith.
“Our client was unlawfully retired premature on 21st December 2009, more than 7 years ago by the former CG of customs, Dikko Inde’s administration, who was arrested by 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 of Nigeria delivered the above mentioned judgement in favour of client Compt. Gusau with regard to his illegal retirement, orchestrated by NCS Authority over seven years ago, both CGC Ali, the minister of finance and Chairman NCS Board, have continued 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 reminder 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 informed that going by the scheme of service for Customs Service, rules and regulations and condition of service, it’s unjustifiable to deny Gusau lawful promotions, and granted accelerated promotion to Compt. Gusau’s many junior colleagues in the service of NCS who came from the same geographical zone with him.
The above mentioned promotions enjoyed by his juniors in 2004, 2007 and 2008, by officers from same zone with Compt. Gusau, were again granted accelerated promotions 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, Wuse Zone 3, in December 2009.
“I audited only 20 SGDs online and discovered 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 area command,” he revealed.
Contacted, Compt. Gusau explained that when he reported at the headquarters after Supreme Court judgement, the legal adviser and secretary to 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 judgement.
It would be recalled that CC Gusau challenged the unlawful retirement of his permanent and pensionable appointment at the Federal High Court Abuja, the matter that reached Court of Appeal Abuja and Supreme Court of Nigeria, where Gusau emerged victorious in both court of appeal and supreme court of Nigeria respectively.