The Nigerian Senate minutes ago on Thursday, March 16, 2017 sent away, Hameed Ali, the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service, for failing to appear before it wearing customs uniform as earlier directed by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
The senators in a voice vote ordered the customs boss, a retired army colonel, to reappear before the legislative arm in customs uniform next Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
Ali, who appeared in a white caftan, had told the senators that no law makes it compulsory for him to wear customs uniform.
This angered the senators, with some of them declaring the reply as derogatory and unacceptable.
They cited sections 7, 8 and 10 of the Customs Act which state that customs share the same privileges with police and other security institutions.
Ali, who arrived at around 9:30 a.m., went straight to the office of the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Vanguard reports.
He was led by Senator Ita Enang, President Buhari’s senior special adviser on National Assembly matters (Senate)
Ali, who dressed in white caftan, white cap and black shoes to match, went to Enang’s office at 10:36 a.m. shortly after Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and other principal officers entered the chambers.
Enang is also dressed in white.
The Nigerian Senate had on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 ordered Ali to unfailingly appear before it by 10am today [Thursday] in complete Customs uniform to explain the agency’s earlier planned policy on duty on vehicles and other recent acts of the Customs.
Ali has refused to wear the Customs uniform since his appointment over a year ago, arguing that as a retired soldier, he should not be seen putting any other uniform.
The Defiant Senate
Shortly before the resolution, some senators expressed concern over Ali’s defiance of the National Assembly by appearing in mufti despite the letter sent to him, specifying that he should appear in uniform.
The deputy leader of the Senate, Bala N’Allah said letters were sent to the comptroller general to appear before the senate to give explanations on the proposed duty payment on vehicles imported into Nigeria.
He further expressed his disappointment with the customs boss, who in a response to the invitation letter said that the National Assembly should not be concerned about whether he wears the uniform, once he performs his duties.
N’Allah said the response was a slap on the Senate, as an institution.
N’Allah who quoted Section 10 of the Customs Act, among other sections, said the section was clear about punishment for unlawful behaviour of any officer, “including any person who assumes the name, designation or character of an officer.
“The Act further states that the power to prosecute is that of executive and certain officers including CG has that power.
“This implies that your position is statutory, meaning you must conform to the Act.
“Besides, wearing uniform is anchored in the Constitution.
On the C-G’s excuse that he was seeking legal advice on the insistence of the senate that he should wear uniform, the deputy leader of the senate said the C-G ought to have sought legal advice before deciding not to wear uniform.
He said the senate, as the highest law making institution, would not allow anybody to ridicule it, even though it remains supportive of President Muhammadu Buhari’s good intentions for the country.
Sen. Barau Jibrin(APC-Kano) said there was no need to subject the disobedience of the C-G to a long discussion.
According to him, the house should vote to insist that he goes back and “comply by wearing uniform before appearing here.’’
Sen. Solomon Adeola(APC-Ogun) said it was only proper for the C-G to comply, adding that it was a matter of concern that he was not proud wearing Customs uniform.
“All other persons that followed him here are fully dressed in the Customs uniform.
“With what is happening, anybody can wear anything and present him or herself the Comptroller General. So, I don’t know who is standing here before us.
His car and aircraft carry the official logo of Customs but he wears mufti.
Sen. Ali Wakili said he had met with Colonel Ali before now.
He suggested that since he was not ready to wear uniform, his title should be changed to “Sole Administrator.’’
He however appealed to the senate to allow him and other lawmakers interface with the Ali on the matter.
The Customs boss said the senate letter dated March, 15 did not stipulate he wear a uniform before appearing.
He further said he was already seeking legal interpretation to the wearing of uniform.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary said it was proper for the comptroller-general of customs to wear uniform as a form of motivation for other officers.
He also explained to him, that though the letter dated March 5 did not indicate the wearing of uniform, the condition was included in previous letters. Ekweremadu said Ali did not have a good excuse to defy the senate..
“Section 2 of the Customs Act defines the officer to include comptroller-general.
“I believe too that there are certain things officers take for granted which is wearing uniform. They should learn from you.
“With your refusal to wear uniform, they can also refuse to wear uniform, saying there is no law that compels them to wear uniform.
“There is no better teacher than living by example.
“Also, you suspended the vehicle policy. It does not mean you will not come back to it, since it is only a suspension.
He said the senate was of the view that he return to the senate in the proper uniform of comptroller-general of Customs.
‘Ken Saro-Wiwa Killer’
One of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first appointments was that of naming a member of the extra-judicial panel that sentenced Ken Saro-Wiwa to death, Colonel Hamid Ali as head of the Nigeria Customs Service in August 2015.
Colonel Ali was military administrator of Kaduna State from 1996 to 1998 under the despotic regime of the late General Sani Abacha.
Reacting to the cold-blooded murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni indigenes, Col. Ali said he had no regrets over his role in the judicial process that led to Saro Wiwa’s execution.
In November 2015, Colonel Ali ordered the impounding of a sculpture created as a memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa, which had been sent as a gift to mark the 20th anniversary of their execution by the military government.
Additional reports by PR Nigeria and NAN.