AS the Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (retired), approached the Senate Chamber yesterday, the senate voice thundered Customs Boss; Go and Wear Your Uniform. Did the retired colonel and Custom boss turned back or not? read below episode
Determined to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the law by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (retired), the Senate, yesterday, walked out the NCS boss out of its plenary, over refusal to wear his uniform.
The lawmakers also gave him a one-week deadline to re-appear before the upper chamber wearing the agency’s uniform.
The ultimatum came barely 24 hours after the Senate, in a resolution reached on Wednesday, compelled the CGC to appear before lawmakers during plenary to brief the chamber on the newly introduced vehicle duty policy, which was suspended this week by the Customs boss.
Ali, who incurred the lawmakers’ wrath yesterday, following his refusal to appear in uniform, despite several entreaties to that effect, was stopped from briefing the upper legislative chamber on the policy until he fully complies with the provisions of the law.
The NCS boss, who was ushered into the red chamber five minutes after the Senate resolved into the committee of whole at 11:59am, in company of other officers well-dressed in the service’s uniform, was accompanied by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang.
When asked by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at the plenary, to give reasons for non compliance with the Senate’s directive, Ali explained that there was no written directive to that effect in the letter requesting his appearance before the legislative body.
Ali, while stating that he is seeking legal advice on the issue, posited that there is no provision in the law that makes it mandatory for him to wear uniform as the agency’s helmsman.
But the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, a lawyer by calling, who was first recognised by Senator Ekweremadu to speak, expressed outright displeasure with the insistence of the customs boss, and also accused the Comptroller-General of making derogatory comments in the media that ridiculed the institution of the National Assembly.
Citing Sections 7 (2), 8 and 10 of the Customs Act which duly provides for unlawful assumption and character of an officer, anchored his argument on a provision which states that “any person not being an officer, assumes the name, designation of character of an officer” upon appointment.
According to him, in order for the Customs boss to be known as the Comptroller-General, he must conform to the provisions of the law as contained in the Customs Act.
He said: “We require that you come before the committee of the Senate to say this is how the circular is and this is how we intended to implement it. This would have given us the opportunity to allay the fears of our constituents.
“Unfortunately, it was alleged that in reaction to that resolution, you allegedly made certain comments that appear to be derogatory to the institution of the Senate, by saying the Senate has no business whether you wear the uniform or not. “Now, the Senate is not privileged to see your letter of appointment, but what is important is that you issued that circular in your capacity as the Comptroller-General and at all material time, you have answered and acted the office of the CG.
“Today, you are in this chamber because the Senate summoned the Comptroller-General of Customs and let me refer you to Section 7 of the Customs and Excise Act. If you look at section 7, sub-section 2 in particular and with your permission, I read: “Any proceeding for an offence under this law will be taken in the name of Comptroller General.
“The intendment of this is that it has given you legal power in your capacity as Comptroller-General. Then Section 8 of the same law says, “For the purpose of carrying out or enforcing the provisions of the Customs and Excise Law, all officers shall have the same powers, authorities, privileges as being given by law to police officers…”I want you to read the recital.”
He added that Ali, having served all this period since his appointment, did not deem it fit before now, to seek legal advice as to whether to wear the uniform of the Nigerian Customs or not.
Senator Barau Jibril (Kano), in his contribution, called on his colleagues to compel the CG to comply with the provision of the law before he is allowed to brief the Senate.
Throwing his weight behind Barau’s position, Senator Solomon Olamilekan, said the upper legislative chamber should stick to the resolution of the Senate by ensuring that the customs boss is made to brief the chamber in uniform.
Another lawmaker, Senator Magnus Abe (APC, Rivers), on his part, who pleaded with the Customs boss to wear his uniform, was severally booed by his colleagues who disagreed with him while making his contribution.
Clearly, sensing the rage and disapproval of the lawmakers, Abe, who advanced his argument along a new course to appease his colleagues, ended his contribution by adding that the controversy and conflict brewing between the NCS and the Senate over his refusal to wear the uniform, was uncalled for.
Senator Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers), at this point moved that the Comptroller-General be given another date, next week, to reappear in uniform, saying “the Senate cannot be allowed to be ridiculed.”
Gemade, who seconded the motion, noted that even the law on wearing uniform was binding on the Commander-in-Chief where the need arises.
In his remarks, Ekweremadu, while citing Section 2 of the Customs Act, told the Comptroller General that “as the leader of the customs service, you must lead by example by obeying the law.”
Ali was then given a one-week deadline to appear before the Senate in uniform Wednesday, next week, to brief the upper chamber on the vehicle duty policy.