Anger, confusion and apprehension are pervading the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Customs Service after a long-scheduled promotion examination for the next generation of top management personnel was abruptly cancelled after all the 1,164 officers were already gathered at the Abuja headquarters of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) at 7 o clock this Monday morning.
Officers from the level of Superintendent to Deputy Comptrollers had been summoned to the Customs headquarters in Abuja for the written promotion which was to be conducted under the auspices of JAMB.
As late as Friday, October 19, 2018, the affected officers had been issued a memo affirming that the test will hold today and given directives on procedures to be observed.
The first screening exercise scheduled for 7am was for the 129 deputy comptrollers due for promotion to the rank of Comptrollers of Customs.
However, after all the candidates were already seated awaiting the commencement of the test, an assistant comptroller general in charge of human resources, Mr AOB Fatade, just entered the JAMB centre and without explanation, announced that the exercise has been called off.
“He just told us that the screening will no longer hold and has been postponed indefinitely,” one of the candidates who asked not to be named told Business and Maritime West Africa. No reason was given to us, there was no explanation, absolutely nothing. There was total confusion. Imagine the situation where all the officers in the affected cadres were already waiting,” the officer, a deputy comptroller, said.
Many of the officers were furious with the abrupt suspension of the screening as the exercise had been in the works for over two months. “I’m sad. This is very frustrating. Up to last Friday, they told us everything was set and we had already been accredited and seated in the examination hall before the suspension was announced,” another candidate snapped in anger.
The development has elicited an air of confusion and apprehension within the Customs hierarchy. For the candidates, some are concerned that the exercise may be put off for a considerable time. “When this sort of thing happens at a time like this, it is ominous. This is the season of politics and any unsavoury thing can be done when politics is involved,” an assistant comptroller and one of the candidates told BMWA.
In the absence of any official explanation, speculations on what may have prompted the sudden postponement range from tardiness on the part of the organisers to management ineptitude.
Other candidates are, however, concerned on the costs, logistical and financial, of their coming to Abuja for the botched interview. “I came from Borno State for this interview. No allowance was paid to us and none is promised anyway. I had to raise money for transportation, feeding and hotel accommodation and now this, the service didn’t make any provision for these,” a chief superintendent lamented.
Some of the candidates were said to have been involved in auto accident while on their way to Abuja with some fatalities. However, BMWA could not confirm the identity of the people involved.
In the memo issued to the candidates on Friday, they had been directed not to come with any form of writing materials, including biros, laptops and tablets except the forms duly signed by their Comptrollers or sectional heads. All writing materials were to be provided by the Customs.
The memo with a reference NCS/ABJ/HRD/560/C/VOL.VIII, dated 17th October 2018, had stated that “promotions will be based on merit and standing as determined by competitive examination”.
In a bid to give credence and transparency to the promotion examinations, the management of the Customs had engaged the services of JAMB to conduct the tests in an environment that is CCTV compliant. The candidates were warned that “any person caught cheating or involved in any form of examination malpractice or act of indiscipline will be severely sanctioned as stipulated in CEMA”.
Those that came for the promotion interview were 129 deputy comptrollers, 307 assistant comptrollers, 538 chief superintendents and 190 superintendents.
Repeated efforts to reach the spokesman of the Customs, Mr. Joseph Attach, were unsuccessful.