By Henry Umoru & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
ABUJA — Despite the intervention of the Presidency, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd), again, yesterday, shunned the invitation of the Senate to appear in complete uniform to explain his agency’s controversial policy on vehicle duty.
Consequently, the Senate did not only insist that he appears today but also threatened to issue warrant of arrest on him should he fail to appear.
The Senate’s decision, which followed a motion by Senator George Sekibo, PDP, Rivers East, who relied on Section 89 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, came on a day the Customs Service suspended further implementation of the controversial policy.
The motion was seconded by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
According to the Senate, the action taken could have been avoided had the institutions of government respected one another.
The upper chambers added that it would move against anyone or institution that tried to rubbish it.
Angry senators specifically asked the NCS boss to appear before the Senate in compete service uniform, and not Babaringa or Kafta and explain why he decided to flout a resolution passed by the Senate.
This is even as the Senate said it would put machinery in place to amend the Act establishing the Customs, since it was already obsolete.
But Ali in a letter, addressed to the Senate, said his failure to appear was due the loss of a family member.
The Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, moved a motion that the CG of NCS be invited into the chamber at about 11.1 8a.m today
Speaking on the matter, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, explained that he had a meeting with Col. Ali, but was silent on the refusal of Ali to honour the invitation of the Senate.
He said he had a meeting with the Customs boss, Tuesday night, where they both agreed that the policy would be suspended, even as as consultations would be made with relevant stakeholders and the public.
Saraki read Ali’s letter dated, March 14, 2017: “May I respectfully refer to your letter Reference No. NASS/CS/8S/R/09/29 dated March 9, 2017 and inform Your Excellency that the decision on payment of Customs duties by vehicle owners who do not have them as prescribed by law is currently being reviewed.
“The goal of the review is to take a broad additional input from stakeholders and the public on all its aspects. I will welcome opportunity to avail the Senate on our findings and the way forward on improving our capabilities to plug major drainage: in the nation economy without adding to hardships and within our mandate.
Protesters ask C-G to step down
Meanwhile, commercial activities were, yesterday, grounded at Fegge Area of Onitsha following a peaceful protest by Coalition of Civil Society of Nigeria, COSCON, against the directive by Ali.
The protesting groups, drawn from Anambra, Edo, Rivers, Imo Enugu and Abia State converged on Achebe Mini Stadium, Fegge, Onitsha, displaying placards with inscriptions as: “Ali must resign”, “Col. Hameed Ali, blame your officers not Nigerians”, “Hameed Ali, we are in a democracy, not military rule” ,”Ali is tired, he should go,” among others.
The protesting CSOs, led by Anambra State convener, Mr. Uzor A. Uzor and his Edo State counterpart, Mr Omobunde Agho, chanted anti-NCS songs, and marched from the Achebe Mini Stadium to NCS Area Office, along Asaba Enugu expressway to register their grievances against Col. Ali and the NCS.
Addressing newsmen, Coordinator General of Edo State CSOs, Mr. Omobunde Agho, his Anambra State counterpart, and Chairman Campaign for Democracy, CD, Uzor A. Uzor, in their respective speeches, urged the National Assembly to curtail the alleged excesses of Col. Ali, who they accused of having no respect for the lawmakers and Nigerians.
Agho said: “Ali is behaving as if he is a law unto him and making harsh policies in NCS to further impoverish the poor masses who have gone through economic hardship caused by recession.
“Corruption has eaten deep into the Nigerian Customs Service, and Col. Ali with his new policy, is creating more avenues for his men to be more corrupt. With his new policy, they will subject Nigerians to untold intimidation, harassment and extortion.”