The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the 2023 elections in Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has explained how he made his money while serving in the Nigeria Customs Service.
The former Vice President offered the explanation in an interview he granted to Arise TV on Friday on various issues.
Recall that Abubakar served in the Nigeria Customs Service and was said to have become a “rich man” while still in service.
Many had linked his acquisition of wealth while serving in the Nigeria Customs Service, especially while he was at the Idiroko Border Post, to corrupt practices.
But the presidential candidate, who joined the Nigeria Customs Service in 1969 and served for 20 years, justified his acquisition of wealth to pure hard work and quality thinking.
Abubakar told Arise TV: “The fact that you a public officer does not stop you from engaging in business.
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“I was telling somebody in the first day I resumed duty at Idiroko Border Station, I was not even married, what I realised was that one of the most lucrative businesses then was buying a Peugeot 404, putting bench (wooden chairs) at the back and conveying passengers between Lagos and Cotonu or Ajase, Port Novo.
“As a young officer, I worked in Apapa.
“I signed for hire purchase and I bought about five of them and distributed them.
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“They were to ferry passengers between Lagos and Cotonou.
“And I was making my money.
“So, I have been doing business from day one as a public officer.
“Because you are a public officer does not stop you from engaging in business.”
According to his profile on Wikipedia, Abubakar worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for 20 years, rising to become the Deputy Director, as the second highest position in the Service was then known.
He retired in April 1989 and took up full time business and politics.
He started out in the real estate business during his early days as a Customs Officer.
In 1974, he applied for and received a N31,000 loan to build his first house in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, which he put up for rent.
From proceeds of the rent, he purchased another plot and built a second house.
He continued this way, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola.
In 1981, he moved into agriculture, acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola to start a maize and cotton farm.
The business fell on hard times and closed in 1986.
“My first foray into agriculture, in the 1980s, ended in failure,” he wrote in an April 2014 blog.
He then ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar.
Abubakar’s most important business move came while he was a Customs Officer at the Apapa Ports.
Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, invited him to set up Nigeria Container Services, a logistics company operating within the Ports.
NICOTES would later go on to become Intels Nigeria Limited and provide immense wealth to Abubakar.
Abubakar is a co-founder of Intels Nigeria Limited, an oil servicing business with extensive operations in Nigeria and abroad.
His other business interests are centred within Yola and include Adama Beverages Limited, a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola; an animal feed factory; and American University of Nigeria, the first American-style private university to be established in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Conflict of interest accusations has since trailed him on account of his involvement in business while a civil servant, who exercised supervisory authority.
On his part, Abubakar has defended the decision, saying his involvement was limited to the ownership of shares, which government rules permitted, and that he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the business.