Monday, 30 September 2013

Jane Shoboki: Saint or Sinner?

Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Jane Shoboiki, is either a very good Customs officer or a very bad one.
Shoboki has consistently been in the news for the wrong reasons. The first time she came into the limelight, she was the officer in charge of the Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) at Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
On Wednesday, 1st August 2012, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, accused Shoboki of invading the NAGAFF headquarters at 2A Maybin Street, GRA Apapa, Lagos with heavily armed soldiers.
Aniebonam claimed that Shoboki stormed his office in his absence, accusing him of alleged blackmail and writing damaging petitions against her. She allegedly vowed to kill the NAGAFF founder for daring to transgress against her person. Shoboki and her troop, the association claimed, departed the premises at about 2.45pm of that faithful day after holding the occupants hostage for about 30 minutes.

Speaking with journalists later, Secretary-General of NAGAFF, Increase Uche, who was an eyewitness to the incident, related it thus: "The security men were about opening the gate when the soldiers jumped down and forced the gate open. Then they moved in and the Hilux van turned facing the exit while 12 soldiers moved in and headed to the founder’s office. When they got there, they held everybody captive, ordering them to come out of the office. I went down there to discover what was going on and saw the soldiers lined up blocking the entrance to the office. I shook their hands and asked if we were safe. They said no! That our founder is in trouble! That he has been writing petition against the wife of their oga. That doesn’t he know that the woman is a wife to a Brigade Commander? That their mission here is to kill him! That was when the woman that led them, Jane Shonoiki, the CIU woman alighted from the black jeep, saying that she wants to see that "fool, that idiot who was dismissed from Customs!' That they want to bring him out here and make sure that he is killed. That from now he should know that he is no longer safe in Lagos ... That was the statement she made last before she turned with the soldiers and moved out."
Shoboki had been riled by a petition titled Unlawful Illegal Activities of Mrs Jane Shoboki Deputy Controller of Customs Attached to Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) Tin Can Island Port Lagos signed by legal adviser of the association, Barrister Larry Okonkwo, and dated July 27, 2012.
In the document, she was accused of unbridled corruption and of using her husband’s position as an Army General to intimidate and harass her colleagues and Customs agents.
While Shoboki maintained dignified silence in the face of media onslaught over the alleged invasion, the Tin Can Island Port Customs spokesman, Chris Osunkwo, denied the allegations leveled against her.

Just last week, activities at Terminal B2 of the Customs Tin Can Island Port Command were grounded as licensed Customs Agents staged a protest over allegation of extortion and highhandedness of a senior Customs officer. The officer in question was the one in charge of the vehicle seat and it turned out to be Jane Shoboki.
Yes, Shoboki again! Less than a year after the NAGAFF invasion!
The aggrieved agents accused Shoboki of demanding between N100,000 and N200,000 kickback to clear a car.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of the command, Chris Osunkwo, again rose in defence of the embattled Customs woman claiming that the agents were angry at her because she insisted of being thorough in her job.
Hear him: “The reason why they are calling for her removal is because Shoboiki is not bending to their demands. If she demands money from them, they will be glad to pay. It is because she does not want their money and she is insisting that due process be followed; that is why they were agitated and very angry.”
Going by Osunkwo’s stout defence, Shoboki must be a saint but I dare say she is not.

For one, she is not the only Customs officer at Tin Can Island Port and she is not the only wife of an Army General in Nigeria. Neither is she the only thorough and diligent officer of the Nigeria Customs Service. She needs, therefore, to come off her high horse and treat the stakeholders of Customs with some amount of dignity.
NCS is a service organisation and it is important for Shoboki to free herself from the military mentality that has kept her perpetually at loggerheads with the people she was employed to serve.
A few weeks back when a reverend sister levelled allegations of sexual assault against another Customs officer at the same Tin Can Island Port, the founder and some prominent members of NAGAFF rose up in his defence. They vouched for his character as a gentleman officer. This tells me that the freight forwarders are not as irrational as the likes of Shoboki and my friend Chris Osunkwo will want the world to believe. I think all the agents are asking for is some level of respect from Shoboki.
I heard she resorted to using soldiers again when agents started the protest against her alleged high-handedness. This is an anomaly which should not have been permitted by the Tin Can Island Port Customs Command Area Controller in the first instance. Shoboki shouldn’t have been allowed to bring soldiers into the port to harass port users in the name of providing protection for her.

I think the two public show of shame involving Shoboki should not be taken lightly by the Customs High Command.
My thought is that Shoboki is not a service oriented Customs officer. She should therefore be deployed to a unit where she will not have direct contact with the external publics of Customs since it has been proven severally that she is not in control of her temper.
As it is, Shoboki has succeeded in attracting bad press and opprobrium to the Nigeria Customs Service and the earlier the Comptroller General redeploys her to the backstage, the better for everyone. 

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