opinionBy Mahdi Shehu
Last Wednesday, the Punch and Daily Trust newspapers published a story to the effect that some members of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts expressed displeasure that the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, allegedly refused to honour up to six invitations of the committee to answer some questions on the 2007 -2010 remittances to the federation account.
Reading through the story, there is the tendency for the uninformed to think or conclude that the Customs boss had committed an offence and is running away from justice. Viewed from the fact that Dikko Inde is a well-known respecter of constituted authorities who also holds the House of Reps and indeed the whole National Assembly in a very high esteem, this assertion can only - with due respect - amount to no more than a figment of the imagination of its maker.
It is for this reason that some of us who knew the gentleman right from childhood and who can always vouch for his excellence of character decided to respond appropriately and put the record straight. We feel that doing this has become imperative so that the society does not by commission or omission end up discouraging the few good leaders that have brought immeasurable respect and honour to its fold.
Many Nigerians seem to have forgotten in a hurry how hellish it was to travel to foreign countries especially of the developed world. The embarrassment that used to await virtually every Nigerian - the mighty and the lowly - at the various ports of entry to these countries can only be imagined. Then enter Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde and a few Nigerians of his ilk. They showed and proved that indeed not all Nigerians are bad, and that the very best can even be here. Achieving landmarks that were hitherto considered impossible, they enlisted Nigeria in the league of nations deserving honour and respect.
Within only a few months of Dikko's appointment to the helm of the Nigeria Customs Service in 2009, the World Customs Organisation (WTO) saw and recognised his immense potential. Other comptrollers general of Customs services of West and Central African states wasted no time in making him their leader (a position he still occupies). In recognition and appreciation of Dikko's giant strides, the WTO last year extended to Nigeria a very rare honour. It invited President Jonathan to deliver the keynote address at a meeting involving the eggheads of the Customs all over the world. A new Nigeria was being born, and its citizens should be accorded dignity and respect wherever they legally set their feet on.
It was to attend one of such all-important meetings in Ghana - involving heads of customs of various countries - that the customs CG had to be away from the country. To buttress the high esteem on which he held the National Assembly and indeed all other institutions of government, Dikko appointed no less a personality than Deputy Comptroller General A.J. Atteh to represent him at the meeting with the House Committee on Public Accounts. Unfortunately, rather than appreciating the recognition accorded them, some members of the respected committee, according to reports, chose to play to the gallery by crying wolf where in all honesty there was none.
The records are there to buttress the fact that Dikko - known to be very humble since childhood - has never deliberately ignored any summon from the National Assembly, even when some of these summons clearly tend to disrupt the man's work. Most sensible Nigerians have very high regards for the House of Representatives. Its members should therefore be careful to exercise power in its best form: as if they don't have it. They should not seek to antagonise someone whose records in the Nigeria Customs are clearly the best and unprecedented in all spheres: trade facilitation (remember such potent innovations as Trade
Hub Portal, Single Window, etc), staff welfare, revenue generation, etc.
The House of Representatives should join hands with the Presidency and other people and institutions of goodwill in supporting Dikko Inde to translate to bigger success, the transformation agenda of the president, in the interest of all Nigerians.
Mahdi Shehu is President, Dialogue Institute, Kaduna