March 22, 2017

Senate/Customs CG face-off: Ali won’t appear before you today in uniform, Attorney General writes Senate

Malami, open grazing

Abubakar Malami (SAN) . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke

ABUJA—STRONG indications emerged yesterday that the face-off between the Senate and the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, (retd), is getting messier everyday, as the Federal Government has vowed that the Customs boss will not wear complete uniforms as directed by the senators who asked him come back next week Wednesday in complete Customs uniform.

The Customs boss, who is billed to appear before the Senate today in uniform will not do so, just as he had cited the constitution and also for the fact that the case on whether he should war uniform or not, was already in court.

Abubakar Malami (SAN) . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

Vanguard gathered yesterday that in a letter to the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had written that Hameed Ali will not come in complete uniform because someone has gone to court to challenge the process.

According to the letter, Malami has asked the Senate to hands off the matter against the backdrop that they were already in court to challenge it whether the Senate has the powers to oversight the Customs Comptroller General as well as have the right to compel him to wear uniforms.

In the letter, the Attorney- General was said to have said that there was no way the Senate could force Ali to wear uniforms when President Muhammadu Buhari does not wear military uniform as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

He was said to have accused Senate President Bukola Saraki of not wearing his complete legislative regalia in line with legislative conventions.

But reacting to the development, the Senate said that no court of law çan stop it from carrying out its responsibilities in line with the constitution and the Senate Standing Orders 2015, as amended.

Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi, who admitted that the Senate had received the letter from the Presidency written by the Attorney- General through the Clerk of the Senate, said that there was no cause for alarm.

According to him, the leadership of the Senate was yet to discuss the letter, as there will be no direct response to it, adding that the borne of contention now had to do with the issue of wearing uniform and not appearing to tell the the Senate the proposed policies of Customs.

Senator Sabi Abdullahi said, “There is a communication, although I have not seen the content. So, I won’t be able to make any categorical comment on it. There is no cause for alarm, we will remain guided by our rules and the constitution of the country and to work in the interest of Nigerians and for Nigeria. No court can stop us from doing our job and no court will indulge in illegality.”

Meanwhile, baring any last minute change, the Senate may suspend Senator Ali Ndume over what the Senators have termed, ‘unparliamentary’ utterances made by the Borno born lawmaker, just as plans have have been concluded and were said to be in advanced stage in the camp of the Senate President, on how to move against him.

According to a source, a Senator who is seen not to be involved in the logjam has been    approached to move a motion on the floor of the Senate for the suspension of Ndume, adding that Senators, loyal to Saraki were already reaching out to Senators who are yet to join the train.

Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West who heads the FCT committee, is said to be leading the offensive.

Ndume is said to have incurred the wrath of Saraki and his loyalists, when he protested against the rejection of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu by the Senate where he had gone to the Presidential villa to speak against the general view of the Senate.

Also at the second rejection, Ndume who protested the approach adopted by the Senate President, however accused him of accepting a new report not signed by the Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura.

Referring to a similar letter written to the Senate President by an Assistant Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on behalf of the Col. Hameed Ali, Ndume had queried why Saraki declined to read the letter, but accepted a similar one from the DSS.

Ndume, after the second rejection of Magu, granted several press interviews where he openly criticized Saraki and the entire Senate for rejecting Magu, just as the source said that the move to suspend Ndume may materialize any moment from now.

It would be recalled that    for not wearing complete uniform as instructed, the Senate had on Thursday last week, walked out the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, rtd and asked him come back next week Wednesday in complete Customs Uniforms.

He was asked to leave the plenary because rather than wear complete Customs Uniform, he appeared in white Kaftan, white cap and black shoes.

Ali, who arrived the Senate at about 9.30am, was ushered into the Senate chamber at 12, 05 pm and was promptly asked by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, why he was not in uniform, just as it took the Senators some 40 minutes to deliberate on Ali’s matter before he was sent    out of the chamber for what the lawmakers, termed, improper dressing.

The Customs boss who came with all Customs officers who all wore Uniform, was asked to leave the chambers at 12.40 pm.

The lawmakers had insisted on Wednesday last week that Ali must appear before them on Thursday unfailingly after he had submitted a letter to the office of Senate President Bukola Saraki to explain his inability to appear at the Wednesday’s plenary.

When he appeared before the Senators and after introducing himself, the Customs boss who    noted that he has no knowledge of any that law compels him to wear uniform, said that his letter of appointment did not ask him to wear uniform, but the Senators however took a swipe at him, insisting that no law stops him from wearing the uniform apart from citing sections of the Customs and Excise Act to affirm the need for him to wear uniform.

In his remarks, Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who provided a detailed  background to Ali’s invitation, said that the Acts setting up the Customs Service provide that the Comptroller-General should wear uniforms, even as he said that the motion leading to Ali’s invitation was moved by him, upon sighting the circular on old vehicles issued by the Customs.