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Despite Senate directives on custom’s comptroller general to wear its uniform when  coming  to national assembly  in its last meeting that lead to
much heated debate where after all said, made  the upper chamber to give him soft
landing that culminated  into bending its rules,  that lead to given another extension of coming to its upper chamber,
this time, to appear in its plenary with the understanding that he will be  properly dressed in custom uniform.The custom
boss failed again to appear with uniform yesterday,  prompting  the upper chamber to show
him the way out.

Even Though the Customs boss failed in  honoring senate  previous invitations, but came last Wednesday, not  until senators adopted a resolution compelling
him to appear  or risk arrest over the planned implementation of
vehicle verification exercise, which would have made owners of old vehicles to pay
duties, that may eventually lead to changing of their mind. urban express news online  gathered  that the custom
boss had initially came on short visit to the upper chamber, this time,  to meet
with the senate president and explain the legal interpretations behind his
action which according to source who pleaded that his name  should not to be mentioned online said  colonel Hammed Ali’s  submission is said not to
go down well with the senate president which may be on connected to what lead
senator Bukola Saraki  not presiding over
the red chambers yesterday, given his deputy Ekweremadu to deliberate on,  and
came up with the decision, insisting that the custom comptroller general, must appear
before its plenary with uniform.

When Ali appeared yesterday, he was
left waiting in the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on
National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, for about two and half
hours. At about 12.05pm, Ali was ushered into the chamber by Enang, following a
motion moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Deputy Senate President,  Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, reminded Ali
why he was invited. He went ahead to ask him why he did not wear his
appropriate service uniform, in line with the directive of the Senate.

The Customs boss acknowledged
receipt of the first invitation, which required him to appear in Customs
uniform, but claimed that the second summons was silent on whether or not he
should appear in uniform.

Ekweremadu informed him that the
second invitation was a reminder that he must appear before the Senate.

The Customs CG said on the issue of
whether to wear uniform or not, he was seeking legal opinion and pleaded with
the Senate to also seek legal advice on the matter.

Ekweremadu, thereafter, threw the
matter to the floor for comments.

Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala
Na’Allah, who was the first to speak, reminded the Customs boss that he raised
the motion over the policy on retrospective payment of duty on old vehicles.

He said: “I crave your indulgence
to try and put a recital with what I can best refer to as unnecessary
controversy. You will recall that I raised a motion on the floor of the Senate
based on a circular issued or allegedly issued by the Comptroller General.

“You issued a circular in which we
have a lot of calls from our constituents, entertaining anxiety as to what will
happen to them and what we wanted clearly was in terms and in keeping with the
terms and tradition of our democratic governance.  We require that you come before the committee
of the Senate to say this is how the circular is and this is how we intend 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
appeared to be derogatory to the institution of the Senate by saying the Senate
has no business whether you wear  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 in 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,
subsection 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 given by law to police
officers…’ I want you to read the recital.

“Then it came under section 10 and
it says, ‘unlawful assumptions and character of an officer;’ don’t forget it is
referring to Comptroller General of Customs to which, at all material time, you
have answered. It says, ‘if for the purpose of telling admission to any
building or either place or any ship or aircraft or vehicle or of procuring to
be done of his own authority or for any other unlawful purpose, any person not
being an officer assumes the name, designation or character of an officer he
fails in addition to any other punishment to which he may have rendered himself
liable be liable to a fine of N1000.’

“Let me tell you the combined
effect of this. The power to prosecute is entirely that of the executive, and,
in this democracy, it belongs to the President. But the constitution, which we
have made and enacted and given to us, says the Attorney General of the
Federation has that power but went ahead to say certain officers, which include
Comptroller General, has that power and it is statutory power. It means your
appointment is statutory.”

Senator Solomon Adeola elaborated
more on the issue. He said: “To start with, this Senate, the highest lawmaking
body of the Federal Republic of Nigeria issued a resolution and the content of
the resolution is crystal clear and which states that the Comptroller General
of Customs appears before it in uniform. The resolution still stands and what
is happening here today is contrary to the resolution passed by the 109
senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I believe it is only right and
proper for the CG of customs to comply with that resolution and, as you can see
here this afternoon, every other person that has followed the CG of Customs
into this chamber is fully dressed in their attire as member of the NCS and I
want to say this; anybody can dress in mufti and call himself CG.

“The Comptroller General is a rank
and if the rank is not here, I don’t know who is before us, and yes they have
identified the CG, but the fact still remains that the CG still needs to appear
before us in full Comptroller General of Customs uniform. His car carry
insignia of the rank of Comptroller General. The official aircraft of the
Customs carry an insignia of the NCS and I believe we should just stick by the
resolution of the Senate and asks the CG to comply with that resolution.”

Senator Jibrin Barau, in his
contribution, noted that having heard what Na’Allah said, the Customs boss
should go back and comply before he would be allowed to address the Senate

Senator Magnus Abe reminded Ali
that, as the image maker of the NCS,  he
should work to build the image of the Service he superintends.

Abe added that even if there was no
law that compels the CG to wear the uniform, he should wear the attire for the
sake of the NCS and the senate. The position of Abe did not go down well with
some of his colleagues, but the Rivers South-East lawmaker persisted on the
grounds that he had the right to speak his mind.

Abe noted that rather than consult
his lawyers, Ali should seek advice from his public relations managers and
insisted the Customs’ boss should work to build goodwill for the establishment.
He described the unfolding controversy as completely unnecessary and uncalled
for. “In the interest of the NCS  and
Nigeria, the CG should go back and do the needful,” Abe said.

Senator Thompson Sekibo, also from
Rivers State, said the business of governance should always be based on the
rule of law. He moved that Ali be given another date, Wednesday next week, to
comply with the senate’s resolution by wearing appropriate uniform before he
could be allowed to address the lawmakers.

Before Ekweremadu put the question,
he said: “Distinguished colleagues, we have heard everybody and the CG. I’m
going to put the question, but let me just do a further explanation to the CG
of Customs. Mr. CG, if you look at Section 2 of the Customs Act, it defines the
officer and that definition is so comprehensive to include the
Comptroller-General of Customs.

“I believe there are certain things
the officers take for granted, which includes wearing uniforms. So, if that is
what they should take for granted, I believe, as the number one Customs
officer, you should lead by example. Because if you create the impression that
you should not wear uniform, then every other officer can also say there is no
law telling them to wear uniform.

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