As darkness gradually enveloped the day, news of the death of former Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Dikko Abdullahi Inde, trickled in like a piercing music note. The former customs boss breathed his last on Thursday, bidding the world goodbye at the age of 61.
While he lived, Dikko had his fair share of victories, adventures, trials and battles, some of which he fought until death. But while those who were close to him said he introduced major reforms in the agency he led between 2009 and 2015, others said he used the position to enrich himself.
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HIS FORAY IN NIGERIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE
Dikko joined the Nigerian Customs Service in 1988. Throughout this time, he served at various customs commands, such as Seme Border, Tincan Island Port, Apapa, all in Lagos; Imo Command, Kaduna Command, Investigation and Inspection Headquarters, Abuja, before he was appointed as Comptroller-General in 2009.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was the one who appointed him the number one customs officer in the country. When Yar’Adua died in 2010, Goodluck Jonathan, his then deputy, made some changes in the government but he did not remove Dikko from office.
Dikko remained till 2015. Jonathan lost his reelection bid and it was an open secret in government circles that Dikko pitched his tent with Jonathan, the first sitting president to have lost election in Nigeria’s history. Despite the fact that he, like Buhari, hailed from Katsina State, he reportedly worked for a man who is from Bayelsa State, a rare attribute in a country where there are concerns about ethnicity and nepotism.
Perhaps if Jonathan had won the election, Dikko would have continued in office but less than four months after President Muhammadu Buhari took charge of the country, Dikko resigned voluntarily, not minding that he had six years before retirement. There were insinuations that Dikko, whose resignation took effect on August 18, 2015, decided to throw in the towel because he had perceived that the Buhari administration would not be fair to him.
When Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, released what he described as “looters list” in 2018, Dikko was number 6 on it. Dikko, who had claimed innocence, fought effortlessly to clear his name before he joined his Maker last night.
He faced various court cases over corruption. The former customs boss was repatriated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a couple of years ago. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuted him. He was charged to court alongside Garba Makarfi, a former Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs in charge of finance, administration and technical services. EFCC also pressed charges against Umar Hussaini, a lawyer, over a N1.1bbillion real estate deal. Umar, an associate of Dikko, was accused of inducing one Yemi Obadeyi, an Abuja-based estate developer, to pay the above amount into the account of Capital Law Office, a company belonging to Hussaini, for the purchase of 120 units of duplexes as residential accommodation for officers of the Customs. A Judge had issued a warrant of arrest, after he failed to appear in court for his trial.
In 2017, Dikko got involved in another case. The EFCC had recovered 17 exotic vehicles from his warehouse in Kaduna State. On this case, Dikko gained the sympathy of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, a Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, who ordered the EFCC to stop prosecuting him. Justice Dimgba’s verdict was premised on a non-prosecution agreement entered into between Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Abubakar Malami and Dikko. The agreement saw Dikko returning N1.5billion, alleged to have been proceeds of crimes he got while in office. Because of this, other cases of fraud against Dikko were subsequently dismissed by the court.
Not new to controversies, in 2009, Dikko was enmeshed in a certificate scandal. The crisis shook him as he was yet to stabilise as the helmsman at customs when one Olajide Oyewole Ibrahim, his estranged ally, accused him of forging certificates. Ibrahim had hired Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is now the Minister of State for Labour And Employment, as his lawyer.
Through Keyamo, Ibrahim filed an affidavit before a Lagos State high court, and also asked the government of Yar’Adua to fire the former customs CG.
In the affidavit, Ibrahim opened a can of worms.
He wrote: “I knew Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, the present Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service since 1995, while undergoing the compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme with the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) at Plot 22, Idowu Taylor Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
“During that time, i.e 1995, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko was serving as a Superintendent of Customs (CS) and resided in his official quarters at Block 18, Flat ‘F’, Eric Moore Towers, Surulere, Lagos. Sometime in 1995, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko approached me as the officer in charge of Training and Courses Department of the Nigerian Institute Management, to sneak out blank programme certificates on Finance and Accounts for him, which he intended to fill himself and present as authentic certificates. He explained to me that he needed these certificates and many others to get rapid promotion.
“I obliged Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko of this request and secured on his behalf two (2) course participant certificates covering the years 1995 and 1996. He thereafter filled them himself and forged the signatures on them.”
Ibrahim said he lost an employment opportunity after the institute discovered that some certificates were missing and he did not open up for the fear of not implicating Dikko.
“My name was withdrawn from the list of corpers to be considered for employment. As I could not be retained, I told Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko of my predicament, but he promised me he would get me into Dangote Group at that time through one of his friends Alhaji Idris Shuaib Mikati. But in the meantime, I became an errand boy for him.
“This situation of running errands for him continued for years and I later forgot about getting a regular employment. Sometime in 1999, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko confessed to me because of my closeness to him, that his West African Examination Certificate (WAEC) result was defective and implored me to assist him get another result.
“In that same year i.e. 1999, I assisted Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko through the help of a staff of WAEC, to get him a fake WAEC result bearing the name of Government College, Kaduna and with the date of issuance as 1980. That in the year 2000 when Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko wanted to become a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), they discovered that the WAEC result was not genuine.”
The house of representatives had investigated the allegations back then but the matter was laid to rest.
DIKKO BELIEVED HE HAD INTEGRITY
Despite the controversies, Alhaji Dikko believed he was on the right path. In an interview he granted the UK-based African Leadership Magazine in 2013, the deceased was asked to speak on the policy that he was very proud of and he had responded: “Integrity! As a Comptroller-General, there is one thing I believe. Anybody you see here irrespective of his rank and position are the same in my sight. Everybody here knows that you cannot approach me with any illegality.
“If I close from this office, no Customs Officer can approach me with any approval except on emergency. They know that you cannot come to my house and start trying to discuss any official matter clandestinely. No. let all official discussions be held in the office. As you can see, I am rarely alone here. I always have one officer or the other with me and I encourage them to sit in during my meetings. That way, you know I have nothing to hide and there is no room for you to broach any illegality with me. You can’t see me in camera. No. see me in front of my people and discuss whatever you want to discuss with me in their presence.
“When I assumed office, I knew part of my job was to identify what will make me to deliver on the mandate that was handed down to me and we thank God that today, we have delivered and surpassed the mandate that was given to us.”
In another interview, he was asked what he would like to be remembered for, he replied: “the Father of Modern Nigerian Customs Service.”
According to reports, Dikko initiated various reforms into the Nigerian Customs operations. In 2010, for instance, he was said to have introduced a 6-point agenda to reform the activities of the service. The reform was said to have led to massive changes in the welfare of Customs officers as about 12,891 officers of the service reportedly attended training courses within and outside Nigeria.
He was also said to have boosted the monthly revenue generation of the service from N30billion to N100billion.
Dikko was born on May 11, 1960 in Musawa, a town in Katsina state. He started his primary education at Musawa Primary School, Musawa, in 1967. He proceeded to Government College, Kaduna, in 1974, and obtained the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in 1980. At the end of his Secondary School Education, he proceeded to the University of Dimitrov Apostle, Tshenov, Svishtor, Bulgaria, where he obtained his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Economics. It was at this prestigious university that he read for and earned a Master’s degree in Finance. Dikko was also a certified accountant, having been inducted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the National Institute of Management. He was married to Sadiya, a librarian, and blessed with four children.