By Bayo Bernard
Embattled controller General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS Colonel Hameed Ali(rtd) is fighting back. Just barely few hours after he was turned back from the Senate last Thursday the ex-military administrator of Kaduna state appears to have turned the table against the senators.
The pressure has now turned on President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and senators to clear the air on allegation that they were out to blackmail the custom’s boss to submission.
For over two weeks the Saraki led upper chamber of the National Assembly has drawn battle line with the customs boss, over directive by the Senate that the retired army officer appeared before senators in customs uniform. The summons came as a result of a recent controversial import duty levy on fairly used vehicles by the customs’ authority. The policy has since been revoked following pressure on the NCS.
Despite the u-turn on the part of NCS the Senate still insisted Ali must appear before it in uniform. Ali had simply called the bluff of the senators contending that no law compelled him to perform his duty in full customs fatigue.
Lawyers in the country are divided on the issue, but human rights lawyer and senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana insists that the customs boss is right on this.
The matter somehow took turn for the worse when senators threatened to issue warrant of arrest to compel Ali to appear before it. That was the situation last Thursday before the controversial customs boss was turned back by angry senators after he showed up in the Senate, in mufti.
The humiliation barely passed when Ali fired a salvo thus denying senators time to celebrate their victory. The NCS has accused the senate of trying to get back at Ali due to seizure of an imported vehicle allegedly belonging to the Senate President.
The Customs had allegedly impounded a bullet proof Range Rover Spots Utility, SUV, belonging to Saraki, for failure to pay full duty on the vehicle as well as get a clearance from the National Security Adviser, NSA as required by customs regulation.
The value of the SUV was put at close to N300 million with duty payable of over N70 million. The chassis number of the vehicle according to high level customs sources who spoke with the magazine over the weekend is SALGV3TF3EA190243. “We seized the SUV early January and it is in our custody” said the source in customs headquarters, Abuja.
All efforts to release the SUV has proved abortive,, including presentation of fake documents by allege agents of the senate president, said the source. According to other customs sources, several letters were sent by the senate to the customs to release the vehicle, particularly the one written and signed on January 17 by one Architect O.A Ojo designated as Secretary of Procurement, Estate and Works of the National Assembly.
Two days before Ali is set to appear before the senate for the second time in two weeks, the SUV is yet to be released by the customs. According to customs sources the reason among others is that, the vehicle documents are fake, and that the owners had failed to get clearance from the NSA for the clearance of such high profile bullet proof SUV. The battle seems to rage on.