For refusing to appear before it in uniform, the Senate yesterday ordered the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Handed Ali (rtd) out of the Red Chamber, with a directive that he should return next week Wednesday fully dressed in the agency’s uniform.
The upper chamber blatantly refused to listen to Ali on any matter, including the contentious ultimatum issued to car owners and dealers nationwide to pay duties on their vehicles between March 13 and April 12, 2019 or risk having their cars impounded.
Customs had on Wednesday announced that it has put the policy on hold, but Ali’s failure to appear before it on Wednesday forced the Senate to pass a resolution compelling him to appear yesterday at 10:00am, failing which a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
Shortly after plenary on Wednesday, Senate spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), had told journalists that a warrant of arrest would be issued against Ali if he fails to honour the summons on Thursday.
“If he does not appear, that is when a warrant of arrest would be invoked. We would not condone anybody challenging the integrity of the institution,” he said, adding that the CG must appear in his Customs uniform.
Ali had earlier vowed not to appear before the senate in uniform, insisting that he cannot wear uniform twice in his lifetime and that he was not appointed to wear uniforms.
The Customs boss made good his threat not to appear before the senate in uniform, but not without succumbing to the lawmakers at the end of the day yesterday.
Deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary yesterday condemned the posture of the Customs CG and directed him to reappear before the lawmakers in uniform next week Wednesday.
Senator George Sekibo (Rivers PDP), who moved the motion for Ali to reappear before the lawmakers by 10:00am next week Wednesday maintained that Ali’s conduct was tantamount to violation of chapter 2, subsection 13 of the 1999 constitution.
In the same vein, Senator Barnabas Gemade, who seconded the motion also berated Ali over his conduct, stressing that where occasions demand, even retired commanding officers still wear ceremonial uniforms.
Responding to bushings of the senators yesterday, Ali told the lawmakers that he was not aware he was to appear in Customs uniform.
He said that the letter of invite sent to him on Wednesday did not indicate that he should appear in uniform, adding that he was not aware of any law that compelled him to wear uniform.
But Ekweremadu told him that the letter he was referring to was a mere reminder to an earlier letter which had directed him to appear in Customs uniform.
Deputy Leader of the Senate, Ibn Na’Allah referred Ali to Section 7 Subsection 2 of the Customs and Excise Laws which dwells on conduct of officers.
He chided him for not living to the expectations of a person of his status by not wearing the uniform.
Corroborating Ekweremadu’s observation, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, who stated that the letter of invitation sent to Ali compelled him to appear in uniform observed that all the officers who came to the Red Chamber wore uniforms, except the Customs boss.
Another lawmaker who spoke on the matter, Senator Ali Wakili (APC Bauchi South) also berated Ali for trying to make the issue of uniform a media matter, noting that he had seen him on television boasting that he would not wear the uniform.
He urged him to toe the line of the constitution as well as the Customs and Exercise Laws by wearing the uniform in his next appearance.
Another lawmaker, Magnus Abe, equally toed the line ofhis colleagues, urging Ali to wear it in his next appearance.
In his closing remark, Ekweremadu urged the Customs CG to lead by good example of a public servant and appear appropriately in his next appearance.
Unanimously, the senators refused to attend to him and ordered him out, saying he should come back next Wednesday in uniform.
More Trouble For Hameed Ali as Reps Order Probe
Meanwhile, on a day Colonel Hameed Ali, the CG of Nigerians Customs Service faced the wrath of the Senate for not wearing uniform, his agency yesterday became the subject of another probe at the House of Representatives.
The House yesterday in Abuja mandated its committee on Customs and Excise to investigate the failure of the agency to auction confiscated goods.
This followed the adoption of a motion on the ‘Need to Investigate the Failure of the Nigerian Customs Service to Auction Confiscated Goods’.
The sponsor of the motion, Hon Prestige Ossy (PDP Abia) said the ban on the auction of goods seized by the Customs had resulted to the forfeiture of such goods to the federal government.
Ossy expressed worry that since the ban took effect in 2015, “it had resulted to the proliferation of seized goods at various formations of the Nigerian Custom Services’’.
He said that goods seized in large numbers from different parts of the country included vehicles, consumables, clothing materials and containers of assorted household goods.
The lawmaker said that instead of auctioning the seized items worth billions of naira, the service left them to degrade.
He said, “Most of these goods, especially the vehicles with Duty Paid Value (DPV) worth over N6 billion, are rapidly depreciating .
“The Customs service will eventually spend huge amount of money in disposing them when it ought to have generated huge revenue for the government by auctioning them before they wither away”.
Ossy added that the service had announced the establishment of an auction sale website in 2015, but said two years on, the website had not materialised.
“The failure to auction goods in its custody had denied the Federal Government over N1 trillion which ought to accrue to it from the auctioning of those goods”, he said.
After the adoption of the motion, the house passed it to the committee on Customs and Excise to investigate and report back in eight weeks.