*Says CG unfit for public office
*We stand by AGF’s letter —Customs
Senate has demanded the resignation of Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (retd).
The upper legislative chamber declared Ali “unfit to hold any public office” and, consequently, demanded his resignation.
Senate also resolved to disregard a letter from the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, where he urged the Red Chamber to stay action on compelling Ali to appear in chamber, in uniform.
Malami informed lawmakers the matter is already before a court of law.
After a closed-door session, which lasted about an hour and 35 minutes, where it was gathered that lawmakers extensively discussed Ali’s proposed appearance, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, yesterday, instructed Clerk to the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, to read the AGF’s letter.
Ayewoh complied. Malami’s letter reads: “I wish to formally intimate you that I am in receipt of a letter dated March 20, 2017, wherein I have been served with an originating summons in respect of the above subject matter.
“The originating summons is seeking, among other declarations, “whether the oversight functions of the National Assembly extends to compelling and/ or giving directive to the first defendant to wear uniform”.
“In line with the principles of rule of law, court decisions or most importantly, the declarations sought have been deeply rooted in the constitutional provisions; I hold the view that this matter is sub-judice.
“In view of three above, it is in the interest of justice and rule of law to stay all actions in this case until the constitutional issues raised in the matters are resolved by the law courts. I wish to further intimate you that as a defendant in the said suit, I intend to file processes and pursue it to a logical conclusion.”
After reading the letter, Ekweremadu opened the floor for lawmakers to make their contributions.
Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, moved the first motion; that the NCS should cancel the controversial policy on vehicle inspection and come up with better ways of carrying out their responsibilities. The chamber approved the motion.
Abaribe moved that Senate should declare Ali unfit to hold any public office and call for his immediate resignation from office as Comptroller General of NCS.
The motion was overwhelmingly supported.
Senator George Sekibo also moved that Senate condemn the AGF for flouting the provisions of separation of powers and the rule of law. Sekibo’s motion was also approved.
During the main debate, lawmakers took turns to lampoon Ali and the AGF. Senator Benjamin Uwajunogu from Imo State said: “Nigeria operates a system established on a division of power. If we give in to this today, it means somebody can go to court and stop Senate proceedings. Can we pass a resolution and stop a court proceeding? I maintain that no court case can stop Senate proceeding.”
Abaribe, on his part said: “The issue that has generated this controversy was the fact that the CG made an obnoxious policy which Nigerians condemned. What we did was to let Ali know that what he did was wrong.”
Quoting Order 63(5) of the Senate Standing Rules, Abaribe said: “No other person is important in this matter order than the Senate. I want to question the understanding of the AGF of the laws of Nigeria. By going ahead to write to the Clerk to the Senate, it shows an abysmal lack of understanding of how things work here.
“I suggest we totally ignore the position of the AGF. I am sure that he has not seen the judgment in question. The CG has deliberately refused to come here. Let us declare the CG of Customs unfit to head the agency. We need to send a strong signal.”
Senator Isa Misau from Bauchi State digressed when he accused handlers of President Muhammadu Buhari and some officials working in the government, as enemies of the people.
“If you see what is happening, you will see that the enemy of this government are within the Presidency. If you see the kind of advice people in government are giving to the presidency, you will know that some people do not want him to succeed. When the President was away for 59 days, did you hear about any attacks, Niger Delta attacks or herdsmen attacks?
“Since the president returned, there have been attacks everyday. Some people are intentionally causing trouble for this government. The people surrounding the government are enemies of the president.”
Sabi, on his part, said: “I want to take us back to the primary purpose which gave rise to this issue. It is about the retrogressive policy which wanted Nigerians to pay for something they did not do. The NCS said they have suspended the policy to make further consultations.
“I will like my colleagues to strongly state that the policy should be cancelled, instead of the current suspension. If we do not make this statement, some Customs officers may begin to extort money from Nigerians in the hither lands.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), yesterday, said it stands by the AGF’s letter to the Senate while reacting to the call by the legislative red chamber for its CG to resign.
In a telephone conversation spokesman of Customs, Joseph Attah said: “The AGF has written and said the status quo should be maintained. We are sticking to that. But the Senate said they are not. So, what else can I say? We’ll go with what the AGF said,” Attah stated.
In his concluding remarks, Ekweremadu warned against frivolous court cases, maintaining that if caution is not exercised, aggrieved Nigerians may begin to file cases in court to stop the confirmation of Ministers and other government appointees.
“It is important that the integrity of this institution be maintained, just as we are in the position and must as well maintain the integrity of other institutions of government.
“Recall that this was just a simple request by the Senate that a policy that is putting more hardship on our people should be reconsidered.
“A policy that sounds to be retrospective and what we got was that it was irreversible upon which we invited the CG of Customs to come and have a conversation with us and to properly dress up while coming here.
“I do not see any big deal in somebody dressing up in uniform of the organisation he heads. No problem about that.
“People should be proud to do that and we expect him to lead by example because if he comes here properly dressed, the other officers and men will also follow the same example. We do not want a situation where we would be telling people by our conduct that you are free to go to the Customs duty wearing ‘agbada’. I think that is not a good example that we should encourage.
“We as public officers and people in authority must lead by example. It is the conduct you portray that those who are following us will be able to adopt. So, that for us is unacceptable and I think we have condemned it sufficiently.
“For the AGF, it is important that a message be sent to him that we are a different arm of government and that we obey the law in accordance with our constitution. We have our responsibility here to make laws.
“God forbid a day where we stop considering the budget because somebody has gone to court to challenge the early aspect of the budget or we stopped consideration of ministers because somebody, somewhere is questioning in court the qualifications of a particular ministerial nominee.
“So, that is why it is important that this matter be settled and the president needs to caution his appointees, that, they obey the law.
“We obey the Constitution and we act in harmony. There is nothing like ‘they versus us.’ We are the same government, we are the same people serving the same people,” Ekweremadu rounded off. (Sun)