Custom’s Boss: The other side of the certificate forgery scandal

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On the 18th of August 2009, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made a very routine appointment which to the majority of hungry and angry Nigerians went largely unnoticed and without any impact to their humdrum existence. Little was

initially said about it except for a few stereotypical insinuations of ethnic bias by overspent and often frustrated has- beens who made in their time more catastrophic mistakes IN THE GOVERNANCE OF OUR COUNTRY than they are quick to criticise in others TODAY.

I was specifically flabbergasted and overwhelmed that a person of the calibre of Rtd. Lt. Col. Abubakar Umar of the Babangida betrayal coup should be the one to fly a kite against the appointment. This is especially as you recall that he was barely a middle level officer of the rank of Major when he was appointed Military Governor of a state thereby circumventing the all important seniority factor in military appointments. At the time Ex- President Babangida appointed him Military Governor there were many senior Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, Brigadiers, and Major Generals in the army who were all more deserving of being made Military Governors than him! Yet not one protest was recorded against his elevation. It is therefore preposterous to the extreme and two-faced for this same person to open his mouth against the appointment of the new Controller General Alhaji Dikko Abdulllahi Inde- a man who by sheer dint of hard work and professionalism as well as by his capacity for revenue generation deserved serious consideration. I also need not remind the rtd. Colonel that Alhaji Dikko had risen to the rank of Assistant Controller General of Customs-the military equivalent of a full Brigadier general- as at the time of his elevation! That position has made him a primus interpares and a legitimate contender for the vacant seat.

We sympathise with the rtd. Colonel that his candidate was bested by Alhaji Dikko. That should not make him begin to fight blindly and without exhibiting the characteristic fair mindedness that is known of a conscientious uniformed officer of his ilk and reputation. By doing this he has wittingly or unwittingly given people of questionable reputation the opportunity to malign such a promising career officer at the zenith of his service to the nation!

Now to the issue at hand. I will not be a worthy friend if I allow the public to continue to have false impression about the nature of the man whom destiny has given a great role to play at this most auspicious moment in the life of our country. A little background information will be in order before we proceed.

Alhaji Dikko is a friend whose career I have followed since the year he returned to Nigeria after a five year sojourn in far away Bulgaria in Eastern Europe. I was his classmate in 1980 when we did the compulsory language school and preparatory course to gain admission in to the university. For many of Sahara Reporters' readers the educational system of the communist world is very unfamiliar. We were schooled in the communist university system where thoroughbred professionals were groomed over five years to become Masters of their chosen field. Unlike the English and American system where the school curriculum is divided in to undergraduate and graduate phases, the communist European system of education has a specialisation approach. You do not study for a degree first before choosing a field of specialisation for and PhD courses subsequently. You were expected to choose your area of specialisation from year one and you continued for the next five years to become a specialist in that chosen field which is equivalent to graduating as an Msc degree holder in English and American universities. (The nearest equivalent to the system described above is the Msc Architecture course in Nigerian universities). The nearest system of education that corresponds to the East European system is the French university system.You were admitted to the faculty of your choice as a candidate specialist in that chosen field. That is why for example while my friend Alhaji Dikko chose to enter the faculty of Finance and Credit; I chose to enter the Faculty of International Economic Relations. Five years later Alhaji Dikko graduated as a specialist in Finance and Credit which was certified as the equivalent of in Finance and Credit of the English universities.

Alhaji Dikko came back to Nigeria in 1985 and joined the N.Y.S.C. scheme the same year. What many readers need to also know is that nobody is allowed to go through the N.Y.S.C. without having their qualifications verified directly by the Federal Ministry of Education.. The N.Y.S.C does not issue a certificate at the end of the service year without the certificate presented by the Corper being verified! Alhaji Dikko like every other Corper presented his attested credentials and was fully verified by the competent authorities of our land. He landed a job in 1987 with the then Habib Bank Ltd owned by the duo of Chief M.K.O. Abiola and General Shehu Musa Yar'adua both of blessed memory. The bank had a Pakistani technical partner. By 1989 Alhaji Dikko responded to the call for national service by joining the Nigerian Customs Service as a level 9 officer.

I recall vividly how we made fun of him jokingly calling him Mr. Zombie and what not. We also wondered why he wanted to leave a promising career in banking for the hazardous customs service chasing smugglers in the bush with all the attendant danger to his life.

Alhaji Dikko was not discouraged but forged ahead to excel in his career and chosen field of revenue generation for the Federal Republic. Today, 20 eventful years down the line Alhaji Dikko has made it to the pinnacle of his career!It is therefore with a great amount of disappointment that I read in the newspapers as one Mr. Olajide Oyewole Ibrahim claimed that all of Alhaji Dikko's certificates were forged and that He the petitioner helped in the forgery! How misguided can some people be! And how criminally minded can some people be!

In retrospect I can understand better why such a story captured the imagination of the public. Today, almost 50 years since we became a nation Nigerians still view and assess each other according to popular ethnic stereotypes. According to these stereotypes a Yoruba man is instantly seen as a dishonest embezzler who does not hesitate to steal any organisation blind! He is also said to be very deceptive and moves like a snake. An Igbo man is believed to be extremely materialistic and will bend corners to make money at all costs! The Hausa man on the other hand is perceived to be a simpleton who is easily outwitted. He is not very educated and is often regarded as a crude speaking and quick tempered person who will easily reach for his dagger to settle disputes! Under these stereotypes Olajide Ibrahim's false allegations instantly attracted wide acclaim.

Many members of the press latched onto the story in order to sell their papers without taking the most basic steps of Investigative Journalism! The worst part of this agonising development for Alhaji Dikko must be the fact that as a career civil servant he cannot easily join issues with the public especially members of the press. Rules guiding his conduct are often in favour of discretion and extreme caution rather than the freedom to exercise his Fundamental human Rights to fair hearing. His responses must be guided by the rules and regulations of confidentiality and instructions from above.

Given this fact I can imagine how much agony he must be suffering as he is forced to maintain silence before his accusers!

I can not help but recall the difficult years we suffered in Europe as African students not used to the change in weather and diet. I remember the 25 degrees below zero temperature in winter when we huddled under thick blankets in our beds still wearing our winter coats to keep warm! The struggle to learn a new and strange language that has no cultural or ethno-linguistic affinity to what you grew up with. I also remember my first experience of sitting before a Professor to read out the answer to the questions I picked for my sessionals. You see in Bulgaria you do not just answer questions in written form and wait for days before they are marked and results pasted on the faculty notice board. No, no!

You will appear on the day of exams at the hall where your professor and the assistants working with him will be at hand seated. You were then admitted in pairs at a time where there were questions prepared in different sealed envelopes. You will pick an envelop and the questions contained therein were registered against your name. You will then proceed to answer the questions by writing as much as you want on the answer sheets. You will thereafter approach the table where the Professor and his assistants were seated. You will be asked to read out your written answers. The Professor or any of the Assistants could stop you at any stage and ask you to explain further certain aspects of the question that they feel you have not addressed adequately. Then when the Professor was satisfied with the answer he'll be free to ask you additional questions from any part of the syllabus until he was thoroughly satisfied that you knew enough of the subject matter as to warrant being given a pass mark. He would then proceed to record your score right there in your presence by making an entry in your student exams booklet which is always with you! The Professor records the marks he has awarded you into the master booklet and you finally walked out of the examination hall not only knowing whether you'd passed or failed but holding your pass mark in your hand! The fear of being ridiculed in front of your classmates was needless to say a major stimulus to studying hard to pass your exams! Also this system demystifies examinations and emboldens scholarship since your efforts are openly rewarded before your classmates.In such circumstances as described above I can assure you that widely practiced methods of cheating in exams in Nigeria such as using GSM to store answers or smuggling in pre-written answers concealed in your body or even sending proxies to represent you could not be sustained! This is because your answering well the questions you initially picked did not guarantee you a pass mark. If your teachers have any doubt about the source of your answers you can bet that they will drill you across the entire syllabus to ascertain your level of knowledge. And of course you dare not send in a proxy because the professor, the assistants and fellow students will expose a strange face immediately thereby earning you instant rustication and deportation. Besides your student's exams handbook had your picture ingrained in to it and cannot be manipulated!

My dear readers, these were some of my reflections as I watched the media going full scale to try a person who had no opportunity to defend himself.

It is also very instructive that this same Olajide Ibrahim was very close to the family of Alhaji Dikko due to Dikko's detribalised approach to life. Jide as we called him was introduced to Alhaji Dikko by his late driver Alhaji Lateef who served him for many years faithfully before his untimely death due to illness. The late driver introduced Olajide to Dikko as his brother who was jobless and could be trusted to run errands for him. Alhaji Dikko's magnanimity and approachability was what made him open up to Olajide. He not only assisted him financially from time to time, he also helped Olajide's family including paying the medical bills of his late mother whom he referred to in his affidavit. I am sure late Alhaji Lateef will kick in his grave as he helplessly observes such a wicked and malicious action of his brother who has betrayed his trust!The public should note that Olajide has introduced himself as a confessed forger and counterfeiter and impliedly does not have the moral rectitude to speak the truth. He has also betrayed himself as a man without any sense of integrity or decorum seeking to hide his indolence behind a man who has done nothing to him but good by opening up the door of his house for him to come in! May the Almighty God deliver us from such a viper, amen!

Perhaps if Alhaji Dikko had conformed to tribal stereotypes he would not have faced such a wicked fabrication from a person he assisted so magnanimously.It is vintage Dikko to be completely detribalised. Even today as the Comptroller General of Customs many of his aides and close associates are non-Hausas! He believes in the equality of humanity beyond the ethno-cultural proclivities of men in his class and ethnic group. His patriotic zeal as a uniformed officer and a gentleman will not allow him to distance himself from a man in need no matter the person's ethnicity or hidden motives and intentions. That is the strength of Alhaji Dikko, which is what has endeared him to his subordinates and colleagues throughout his illustrious career in the customs.As for Barrister Keyamo I'd like to say I do admire his courage in standing to defend the fundamental human rights of people especially the disadvantaged and underprivileged masses of our country. However he needs to exercise caution as a lawyer that he may not be adjudged guilty of taking over a professional colleague's case just so as to score cheap popularity at the expense of the innocent. As has been established in court already by Alhaji Dikko's counsel, Barrister Keyamo has meddled in a matter that is already being pursued by another lawyer hired by Olajide. Apparently without the knowledge or consent of the substantive lawyer handling the case Barrister Keyamo has committed a professional misdemeanour by interfering with another man's client. I am sure the legal profession frowns at any semblance of impropriety that puts to question the integrity of its practitioners. I am sure also that the appropriate watchdogs of the legal profession are keeping records of such deeds. A legal practitioner must be careful not to make excessive use of the media to pursue causes that are best redressed in an open court. The conservative nature of the profession frowns at any semblance of self exhibitionism by its practitioners. If Barrister Keyamo is protesting the theft of public property or misappropriation of public funds we shall give him full support. I did not see anywhere where Barrister Keyamo accused Alhaji Dikko of misappropriation of public funds, bribery or corruption of any sort. I'd have been the first to endorse his action in such a situation. But for a lawyer of Barrister Keyamo's reputation to lend credence to a confessed felon who by his own admission has been harassing a public officer since 2005 by alleging all manner of fabricated lies against him, it is most unfortunate. Barrister Keyamo should also remember the “Oluwole” factor in Lagos when it comes to dealing with certificate issues. If a man's enemies are desperate enough they can obtain any number of certificates from the popular Oluwole Street in Lagos Island bearing his name. Has Barrister Keyamo bothered to verify the fabricated documents with the Civil Service Commission or the Nigerian Customs Service itself as to whether they are the exact same documents in Alhaji Dikko's confidential file? And if he has not done so why does he unwisely choose to defame a public officer without exercising the requisite discretion of a legal practitioner?

Barrister Keyamo should verify the source of whatever documents he may have obtained from Olajide purporting to be Alhaji Dikko's! The Dikko I know will not be found with any fake documents in his C.V. As a revenue collection officer I have seen him on many occasions uncovering fake entries and fake drafts made by importers and clearing agents in their attempts to cheat government of revenue. In all such situations all entreaties and attempts to make him 'settle' have led to prosecution of the offenders and the payment of massive penalties in to government coffers! Alhaji Dikko's favourite response to cheats and duty evaders is:' I'd prefer you pay government the full duty than enrich myself with a small part of it'. Alhaji Dikko's performance as Controller in Charge of Investigations made him stand tall amongst his colleagues. And when he was sent to Seme border as the Customs Area Controller he broke all available records that very year in revenue generation. It earned him a well deserved national honour and a commendation from the supervising ministry of finance! Some of his achievements in that office are still benefiting the nation's revenue mobilisation drive today especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues and no doubt is one of the factors that earned him the exalted seat!

Please, Barrister Keyamo, if you are looking for another Buhari and 'Toronto' episode you have picked the wrong candidate. I can vouch for the veracity and genuineness of Alhaji Dikko's certificates. I was in school with him.

As for the professional bodies that your felon mentioned I can assure you that Alhaji Dikko who earned an Msc degree in Finance and Credit as far back as 1985 does not need to obtain the membership of the Nigerian Institute of Management or Institute of National Accountants of Nigeria for him to become the Comptroller General of Customs.. Many of his predecessors have not earned more than Ordinary certificates and Diplomas before they rose to that rank! Besides as a professional that has been working in the private sector for more than twenty years I can assure Barrister Keyamo that many of these professional institutions openly canvass for membership by approaching prominent individuals and offering them honorary memberships if they so cared to obtain them. If Alhaji Dikko coveted any of these memberships he needed not approach Olajide or any body else to do so. A direct approach will yield a much better and more effective result!Some of us from the north are very upset with the continuous insinuations that we could not study like any other Nigerian and obtain genuine professional qualifications like any other. Needless to say there is no monopoly of genius or dunces by any ethnic group, tribe, creed or region in Nigeria. I knew the time Alhaji Dikko enrolled in coaching school and even hired private tutors to brush him up on the subjects he needed to study to improve his skills and knowledge as a revenue collector. The onus of proof is on the accuser. Let Olajide and Keyamo produce the Mr. Bello who wrote exams for and on behalf of Alhaji Dikko. Let them produce the so-called exhibits attached to their affidavit.


My word of encouragement to Alhaji Dikko is that he should not relent in doing well no matter how badly he gets maltreated. He should remember that the reason why we do well is not in order to get good in return. It is only so that God may remember us in the day of calamity and show his mercy unto us as we show mercy to our fellow men. Remember and be comforted by that popular Hausa proverb that says; “Doing good is like gum, it never falls to the ground in vain”. The God you serve so diligently will not let your good turn to nothing.

We your colleagues and friends are solidly behind you. We are ready to testify of your genuineness and integrity as a bona fide student of one of the best institutions in the Eastern European nation called Bulgaria. For those who do not know, Bulgaria is a small country of less than 9 Million people. It has no natural resources of any sort. Its main stay is mechanised agriculture and it earns over 90% of its revenue from exporting finished agricultural and electronic goods. Yet its G.D.P.compares favourably with that of Nigeria with all our oil and abundant natural resources!

All those sponsored detractors whose purpose it is to take away the crown that God alone gives to whom he chooses shall surely be exposed for who they are!WE ADVISE YOU TO MAKE YOUR TENURE IN CUSTOMS HOUSE ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE IN THE HISTORY OF THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE. YOU CAN DO IT. YOU HAVE ALL IT TAKES TO DO IT. YOU WILL CERTAINLY ACHIEVE IT! –

By Amini Nauju

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