More reactions have continued to trail the face-off between the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), and the Senate.
A retired major general and former governor of defunct Western State, David Jemibewon has weighed in on the ongoing fracas.
Mr. Jemibewon has thrown his support behind Mr. Ali saying the demand from the Senate was an unnecessary controversy.
Describing Hammed Ali as a fine military man who should not belittle himself with Customs uniform, Jemibewon, a former Minister of Police Affairs said:
“We tend to create controversy where there ought not to be controversy. In a situation we are today, we should not be focusing on wearing a uniform. It would be belittling the position of the uniform of a member of the Armed forces.”
Mr. Jemibewon, said he would have resigned if anyone had compelled him to wear police uniform as a minister.
“There was no way anybody could have compelled me to wear uniform. I would have resigned. Even if the law said so I would have resigned,” he stressed.
When reminded that a former Customs Chief, Bello Haliru, appointed outside the service just like Mr. Ali wore the uniform during his tenure and a former FRSC Corps Marshal, Haladu Hananiya, also wore the agency’s uniform following his appointment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Jemibewon praised their humility, but still maintained thus:
“That is very good and I am happy about that. He probably just wanted to identify with them.”
Though admitting that he doesn’t know what Customs rules and regulations stipulate, Mr. Jemibewon repeated that an Army officer should be above a Customs’ uniform.
“The highest patriotic body in any country in the world is the Army. You don’t expect someone who has risen to that position in the Army to wear customs uniform.
“Here is a man who has excelled in his military career and you’re asking that one to wear Customs uniform? I don’t see how that will ensure competence and efficiency.”
Since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, Hameed Ali, a retired colonel, has not been seen in Customs uniform, sparking a confrontation between him and senators who threatened serious consequences if he failed to do so by next week.
The face-off between the two parties began when the senate passed a resolution demanding that the customs boss appears before it in his service uniform to explain issues bordering on duty payment for imported vehicles.
Although Mr. Ali honoured the invitation by the lawmakers, the Senate refused to engage with him for his failure to wear the Service’s uniform as earlier directed. Consequently, the Senate asked Mr. Ali to reappear before them on Wednesday, March 22, in the appropriate uniform.
In a related development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, has condemned the summoning of Mr. Ali by the Senate.
Though admitting that the Senate should not be treated with disdain, Falana said the Upper Chamber should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the constitution.
In a statement, Falana opined that instead of playing into the hands of the Customs boss by invoking the provision of Section 88 of the Constitution, the Senate could have summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision.
“No power exists under the section for general investigation, not fo the personal aggrandizement of the House. So the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance,” Mr Falana said.
He stressed that the Senate was not conducting an investigation but challenging the policy of the Service on payment of duties. he said:
“With respect, the summons served on the CGC (Mr Ali) is illegal and unconstitutional as it cannot be justified under Section 88(2) of the Constitution.”
Falana maintained that the Senate engaged in another illegality when it exceeded its powers by asking the CGC to appear before it in customs uniform as neither the constitution nor the rules of procedure of the Senate have conferred them the power to compel Mr Ali to wear Customs uniform when he is not a serving customs office.
Mr. Falana said the directive was a reckless usurpation of the powers of the board which was the only competent body to decide on the wearing of the uniform by Customs officer.
He called for the Minister of Finance to direct the Nigeria Customs Service to cancel the illegal policy on payment of appropriate excise duties.
According to the senior lawyer, if the Federal Government fails to do so, he will challenge the policy at the Federal High Court.