The interpretation of a circulation from the office of the chief of general staff is now raising dust in the department of Customs and Excise.
The bone of contention centres around whether a clearing and forward firm, Alhaji Yinusa Danjaki and Sons Limited had a monopoly of clearing rights over kolanuts imported into the country.
The firm had last March 12 applied to the CGS to be given te sole agency to clear kolanuts being imported by some Nigerians resident in some West African countries and who were repatriating their wealth into the country through the importation of kolanuts.
The firms also gave guarantee that full payment of all duties to the federal government would be ensured.
In its reply, the CGS in a letter signed on his behalf by Lt. Col. S.L. Teidi and addressed to the internal affairs minister, Col. John Shagaya, the CGS, said: ‚ÄúReference A is a request by Alhaji Yinusa Danjaki to allow Nigerians resident in Ghana, Sierra-Leone, and Liberia repatriate their capital through the importation of kolanuts.‚Äù
‚ÄúThe chief of general staff has approved the recommendation made in reference C. Please inform the Customs and Excise department is issue a restricted circular to the Area Administrator of the ports traditionally associated with the importation of kolanuts to permit importation as recommended.‚Äù
The CGS message was accordingly passed to the Area Administrators concerned but then the problem of interpretation arose.
In a clarification circular dated July 7 and addressed to all the concerned area administrators, the retired deputy director of the Department of Customs and Excise in charge of Economic Relations, Research and Planning, Mr. O.A. Fafowora declared:
‚ÄúAmbiguity arises from headquarters letter of CBCE/TECH/Importation Vol. IV of June 1987, in which one Alhaji Danjaki and Sons Limited, was granted permission to act as ‚ÄúSole Clearing Agent for kolanuts to be imported by some groups of Nigerians returning home frm West Africa countries.
That letter should not be constructed as granting the Alhaji Danjaki a monopoly of agency for all Nigerians importing kolanuts from West Africa countries.‚Äù
Mr. Fafowora explained further that ‚ÄúAside from being constitutionally indefensible, such a monopoly will create chaos in the importation of kolanuts which could come in from any of the ports in the country including those spelt out above.
It will also be impracticable and could ruin an otherwise perishable item if importers have to abandon their consignments at the ports in search of Alhaji Danjaki to clear for them.
Yinusa Danjaki that some of your Customs officials have failed to cooperate with him as regards the above correspondences and particularly his approved request of being the sole clearing agent for the affected Nigerians as the outlined in previous correspondences.‚Äù
Meanwhile, Mr. Fafowora was swept out of office along with the other big shots of the department in the mass purge of the department few months back.
In another interpretation contrary to Fafowora‚Äôs the new Director of Customs in a circular dated September 10, 1987 despatched to all Area Administrators and signed by one of his men said in part that Alhaji Yinusa Danjaki and Sons Limited is th appointed sole clearing agent for all importation of kolanuts.‚Äù
This circular sparked the wave of tongue wagging as most of the senior customs officials spoken to asserted that the new Director‚Äôs circular was a gross circular ‚Äúwas a gross misinterpretation of the CGS‚Äôs circular of August 31, 1987, according to one of the protesting officers who like Fafowora said it was wrong to give sole clearing rights a clearing agent in the midst of many.
The operating words in the circular from the office of the CGS dated August 31 is ‚Äúapproved request of being the sole clearing agent for the affected Nigerians‚Äù said one of the Area Administrators adding that giving sole clearing right to an individual was questionable.‚Äù
This he added ‚Äúwill obviously defeat the intention of the government lifting the ban administratively.‚Äù
The interpretation did not go down well with Alhaji Danjaki who repetitioned the CGS on the issue, that some custom officials were not cooperating with him.
The CGS office in a letter dated August 31, 1987 and signed by Lt. Col. S.L. Teidi for the CGS and despatched to the Internal Affairs Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Dahiru said amongst others.