Senate Asks Customs CG to Resign
The senate has called for the resignation of Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The resolutions of the upper legislative chamber was sequel to prayers moved by Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Abia south.
The senate also declared Ali unfit to hold public office and condemned a letter written by Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF).
Malami in the letter told the lawmakers that the comptroller-general could not appear before the lawmakers because the matter of his uniform was in court.
The resignation demand comes barely 24 hours after the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced its intervention in the row between Ali and the senate.
Ali fell out with the lawmakers after he was summoned to explain the rationale behind customs directive that vehicle owners should pay duty on their cars.
The senate asked him to appear before it in uniform on March 8, but he failed to honour the invitation on the grounds that he had a management meeting.
Not satisfied with the reason, the senate issued a warrant mandating Ali to appear on March 16, and he honoured the invitation this time around, but in civilian attire.
This irked the lawmakers who sent him away and ordered him to return in uniform at 10am on March 22.
But, on Tuesday, Ali told state house correspondents that he would not be at the senate, citing advice from the attorney-general of the federation as the reason for his decision.
He said that he had written to the senate on the development, explaining that a case had been instituted in the court on the matter.
He said the AGF wrote to him, asking him and all parties to stay action on his summon to appear at the senate in uniform, pending the determination of an originating summons filed by one Mohammed Ibrahim.
Truly, he did not appear even though he was listed as the fourth item on Wednesday’s order paper.
Prompted by his seeming disrespect, senators went into a closed-door session at exactly 10:32am.
At the end of the session, the lawmakers subjected the issue to a debate.
Dino Melaye, senator representing, Kogi west, said Malami’s letter was an insult to the national assembly.
While wondering where Malami got his power to direct the senate, Melaye said the AGF could not stop the upper legislative chamber from carrying out its mandate.
“What we heard from the attorney-general is an insult on the institution of the national assembly and precisely the senate, I ask again, where did the attorney-general whom we screened on this floor derive his powers from to authorise, direct the senate or suggest to the senate how to carry out our constitutional mandate given to us by the constitution?” he asked.
“The position of comptroller-general is a rank and anyone occupying that office is at public servant and this is pension rules and that one says the compulsory requirement age for all grades in service including the customs service, it says ‘the compulsory retirement age of service shall be 60 years’.
“Hameed Ali is above 60, far above 60. So he is not qualified to hold the position of the comptroller-general of customs.”
On his part, Abaribe said Malami’s letter to the senate showed that he did not have an understanding of the laws.
“Our rules say in section 53 (5): ‘reference shall not be made in any matter in which a judicial decision is pending in such a way as might in such a way as in the opinion of the senate prejudice the interest of parties’, so no other person outside is important in this matter except the president of the senate,” the legislator told his colleagues.
“In the light I want to question the understanding of the attorney-general of the federation on the laws of Nigeria because by the AGF going ahead to write the clerk of the senate saying there is a judicial matter pending and therefore it is subjudice, it shows an abysmal lack of understanding of what our democracy is all about.”
The senate while condemning Malami’s letter, asked the NCS to out rightly cancel policy of “retrospective of import duties.”
The senators agreed that a “strong-worded” letter be written to the presidency to call Malami to order.