Home ENGLISH VIEWPOINT: Much Ado About Uniform By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed

VIEWPOINT: Much Ado About Uniform By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed

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Custom Chief, Colonel Hamid Ali Rtd, has failed to appear before the Senate on Wednesday last week despite insistence by the senators that  he must appear  fully uniformed as Comptroller-General to explain the planned enforcement of duty collection on old vehicles. However, Colonel Ali might have stayed away from the Senate in deference to a court order following a legal action brought against him and the Attorney-General of the Federation by a private legal practitioner after his earlier appearance in the Senate which sent him back for not wearing being properly attired. But the Senate insisted that no court order could stop it from exercising its constitutional duty even as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had urged it in writing to suspend the invitation to the Customs Comptroller-General as there was an undecided litigation.

Colonel Ali, who is a qualified lawyer, maintained that nothing should move until the court makes a pronouncement, meaning that the status quo should be upheld. A private lawyer, Ibrahim Muhammed sued both the CG and the Senate demanding an interpretation of the section that was in contention. For that reason the CG declined to make any comment or put an appearance in the hallowed chambers of the Senate lest he commits contempt of court. The originating summons in the suit with both  the National Assembly, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Comptroller-General of Customs  as defendants, was seeking a clarification on whether the appointment of Hamid Ali by the President in accordance with his constitutional powers  can be subjected to the provisions of Customs and Excise Act or any other law; whether there is any legal provision that prescribes the wearing of uniform as a condition precedent by the  Col Hamid Ali in view of his appointment under relevant constitutional provision

Accordingly, Colonel Ali cannot appear before the lawmakers especially as he was advised by his lawyers and series of briefings from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation that the order of the Senate compelling him to   appear before it was null and void and was in contradiction of the section 179 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. His appearance should, therefore, await the judgment of the court. In a swift reaction to the AGF’s letter, the Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi retorted that the court had no power to stop it from conducting its constitutional duties.

As it was, the predicaments of the Customs Controller- General Hamid Ali may not have started with the Senate’s invitation and his rejection for not wearing a uniform; there were other reasons which included his unpardonable decision on blocking customs duty waivers to some elites and business tycoons. The issue of uniform was only an afterthought introduced by the surrogates of business tycoons in the Senate to embarrass and humiliate him so as to subsequently allow the waivers to remain. The Senators should have instead concentrated on how Hamid Ali had been discharging his responsibilities and not insisting on wearing uniform since he was not on a parade ground. The Senators should have realized the futility of their actions and regret the waste of its precious time on frivolous matter instead of concentrating on commendable patriotic activities. After all, what Nigerians want are positive results by everybody in all areas of human endeavor with or without uniform.

Even without his uniforms Hamid Ali is an excellent officer and dedicated administrator, directing the affairs of the department of Customs and Excise creditably. He stands firm and unequivocal on the decision to discontinue or suspend waivers, reduction or non-payment on imported items to highly placed Nigerians and influential politicians. It was commendable how Hamid Ali resolves to continue in that vein in his effort to maintain the traditions of the past and to also preserve the reputation of the Customs Service. The law is straightforward about the collection of import duties and there was no reason why it should be relaxed or circumvented now.

The Senate ought to have commended Hamid Ali over his steadfastness in enforcing Customs rules and regulations and on his determined efforts to reposition the service as a prime revenue earner for the country. Already his labor had begun to bear dividends and the government is very proud of him, giving him all the necessary support and fillip to succeed in his onerous task of stemming corruption. However, the Senate does not see it that way. It is now hell-bent in uprooting him with a view to totally destroy his sustained efforts at making dubious and devious importers pay duties as and when due. Consequent upon that a motion for his resignation had been mooted on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday following his clever and perceptive decision to obey court orders and defy the lawmakers’ appearance order.

Nigerians are now eagerly awaiting the likely consequences of the Senate’s demand  for Hamid Ali’s resignation  and the commencement of the hearing  of a suit in which the plaintiff  was praying for a perpetual injunction restraining the National Assembly from compelling Ali to wear uniform in the performance of his duties as the Comptroller-General of Customs Service.

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