By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, was stopped by the Senate in his desperate moves to shore up the revenue generation of of the Service. This has to do with the introduction of duty payment on all imported vehicles through the land borders on Nigeria roads irrespective of the age and refusal to wear the Customs uniform.
The Customs’ vehicle duty payment policy and Ali’s refusal to wear the Customs’ uniform was believed to have overheated the polity that President Muhammadu Buhari who returned to the country on Friday March 10, 2017 had to speak out. Ali had expected Buhari to support the Customs policy and appearance on improper dressing in the Senate or official functions.
Insiders told the Magazine that Buhari did not give a listening ear to Ali’s complaint about harassment by the Senators. The President was said to have made it clear to the Customs boss that ”whoever loves him will not at this point in time orchestrate any trouble between the Executive and the Legislature. Buhari is yet to recover from the non confirmation of Ibrahim Magu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission., EFCC.
The President fears that the scuttle between Ali , an appointee of the Presidency and the Senate may trigger off another trouble between the Executive and the Legislature. He did not want to be seen as supporting what Ali is doing but initiated a meeting between him , Bukola Saraki, the Senate President and Ahmad Lawan, the Senate Majority leader.. The Prompt intervention of the President may have forced Ali to soft pedal in his hardline position over the vehicle duty payment.
Based on the discussion with the President , Ali had rushed to the Senate on March 16, 2017 to see Saraki, the Senate President and Lawan, the Majority leader in the hallowed Senate Chamber.
I Ali and the duo it was gathered had met under close door. useful decision on the duty payment on imported vehicles through the land border where the issues raising the dust were discuseed. The Customs boss had expected the meeting with the two key officials of the Senate to turn the table in his favour. He got it wrong. The duo insisted that he must appear on Customs uniform as directed by the Senate.
But the Customs boss proved that he is not a push over when he appeared before the Senate plenary session presided over by Ike Ekweremadu on what the Senators described as ”improper dressing”. He has shown up to explain why the duty policy on vehicles imported through the land borders which was expected to kick started on April 12, 2017 would not be reversed and the wearing of Customs uniform.
Angered by the Customs boss improper dressing the Senators unianimously walked him out of the Chamber. He was given next Wdnesday March 23, 2017 to re-appear in the upper Legislative Chamber on Customs uniform.
In a voice laden with emotion, Ali Wakil, a retired Comptroller of Customs, representing Bauchi South Senatiorial district condemned what he called the grandstanding of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General.
Many Senators were shocked that Wakil, who hails from the same Senatorial district with Ai, is the one leading the pack of other Senators opposed to Ali’s vehicle duty policy and refusal to wear the Customs uniform. Wakil was said to have told his colleagues that he saw him on Television grandstanding that he will not wear the Customs uniform.
Eye witness account said when Ali, the Customs boss appeared before the Senators to explain the duty payment policy on imported vehicles through the land borders and why he did not wear the Customs uniform as expected. He disclosed that the last letter he received from the Senate did not ask him to appear on uniform.
Speaking further he said , ”I am not wearing the Customs uniform because” there is no law that compels me to wear it”. Bala Na’Allah lambasted him by saying that the law establishing the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, made it compulsory that the Comptroller General of NCS must wear the Service uniform to office and official functions.
The Senate Committee on Customs , Excise and Tariff led by Ita Enang which is championing the move that Ali must wear the Customs uniiform are still maintaining their position. Many believe that Ali is being victimized by the Senate for giving the nod to the seizure of a bullet proof Range Rover Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV, linked to Saraki, the Senate President imported with about N298 million. A
According to Customs sources, the bullet proof vehicle ought to have attracted a Customs duty of about N74 million but undervalued by over 50 percent to avoid paying the appropriate Customs duties.The driver was said to have taken away the vehicle from the port with fake documents.
A senior Customs source told the Magazine that Ali looks odd whenever he appears before the Management team or on a familiarization tour of the Commands. The officer insists that there is nothing wrong in the Senate enforcing the law that the Customs boss must wear the Customs uniform. The officer argued that Ali should see himself as a retired army officer and must be ready to obey the Senate , the highest law making body of the country.
Okey Ihenacho said Ali has no reason to flout the Senate order because of his close rapour with the President. He noted that Tony Hananniya, a former Corp Marshall of The Federal Road Safety Commission FRSC, was a retired Major General but wore the agency uniform . He never played politics with wearing of the uniform in spite of the fact that Military President Ibrahim Babangida who appointed was still in power .
Political analysts would want Ali to take a queue from Hananniya, when he was the boss of FRSC.