PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari went outside the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to appoint a new Comptroller-General for the organisation in the person of Hameed Ali, a retired Army colonel. It was seen as part of his agenda to fight corruption in the Customs, a Federal agency which plays a leading role in harnessing non-oil revenues of the nation.
Col. Ali, however, quickly established a record of being non-conformist with certain rules and conventions of his new organization. He fell out with the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, over his quest for a special salary scale for the Customs which the Minister felt should come after the organisation improved its revenue drive. Ali has never hidden his preference to report directly to the President, rather than the Minister of Finance like his predecessors.
The CGC’s trenchant refusal to wear the Customs’ uniform also became a talking point. The Senate demanded that he should appear before it to explain the controversial new Vehicles Duty Policy, dressed in the uniform of the Service. Ali not only failed on several occasions to honour the invitations, he insisted that he was not bound by law to wear the uniform. It took the intervention of President Buhari before Ali softened his recalcitrance and went into dialogue with the Senate leadership.
It is very sad that Col. Ali fails to adopt the correct mentality to serve under a democratic government, which is governed not just by laws but also precedents, norms and conventions. If he could accept to serve as the boss of the Customs, there is no reason for him to decline to wear its uniform. The argument that he was already a military officer does not wash.
He needs to be reminded that when retired Major General Haladu Hananiya was appointed Corps Marshall of the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) he proudly wore its uniform. Yet Hananiya was Ali’s superior officer in the Army.
It is regrettable that Ali chose to insult the Senate by declining its invitations because of a mere routine management meeting. President Buhari had to step in before he came to his senses.
We condemn these displays of militarist non-conformity and contempt for the statutory uniform of a Service that pays his salary.
Col. Hameed Ali should be made to adjust to the demands of due process and the decorum required of public officers in a democratic environment.
Col Ali must wear his Customs uniform and respect the institution of the Senate.