‘Ali must go’ protests rock Onitsha, as Customs suspends controversial policy

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Some civil society organisations (CSOs) in Onitsha, Anambra state, staged a protest on Wednesday, requesting for the resignation of Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

Osazee Edigin, public relations officer of Edo Civil Society Organisations, related the development, stating that civil society groups from Edo state were duly represented at the protest.

“Protest for the sack of Customs boss ongoing in Onitsha by coalition of civil society groups in Nigeria. Edo Civil Society Organizations duly represented,” Edigin wrote via Facebook.

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The customs boss has been in the eye of the storm, following requests by the senate for his appearance at the national assembly in uniform, after the introduction of a controversial customs duty on vehicle owners.

NCS has since reversed the new policy, but Ali insists on not appearing before the senate on Wednesday, adding that he was seeking legal counsel on whether to wear Customs uniform or not.

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“May I respectfully refer to your letter dated 9 March and inform Your Excellency that the decision on payment of customs duties by vehicle owners who do not have them as prescribed by law is currently being reviewed. The goal of the review is to take a broad additional input from the stakeholders and the public. I will welcome the opportunity to avail the senate of our findings,” Ali wrote.

“Regarding to wearing of uniform, I wish to advice that the senate avails itself of the legal basis of its decision to compel me to wear uniform. I am similarly taking legal advice on this issue so that both the senate and I will operate within the proper legal framework.”

He has been asked to show up at the Senate on Thursday (today) unfailingly.

In a related development, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has suspended its controversial policy to collect import duties on vehicles that do not have genuine customs paper.

It would be recalled that Customs had given vehicle dealers and private vehicle owners between March 13 and April 12 to ensure their vehicle duty payments are regularised.

The policy was however greeted with public outcry and condemnation by the Senate, Nigerian Labour Congress and other civil society groups.

In a statement signed on Wednesday by the Acting Public Relations Officer of NCS, Joseph Attah, the Service said the decision to suspend the vehicle duty payment policy was due to ongoing meetings and deliberations between the management of the NCS and the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise.

According to the statement, “Following the unnecessary tension generated as a result of misconception and misrepresentation of the Nigeria Customs Service planned motor duty payment, the leadership of the National Assembly and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) met with a view to resolving the impasse.

“They both agreed that the proposed motor duty payment, though in line with the provision of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C.45, LFN 2004, should be put on hold while the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise interfaces with the NCS for further discussions.

“While payment of duty on vehicles or indeed any dutiable imported item remains a civic responsibility of every patriotic Nigerian, NCS Management has directed that the exercise be put on hold while expressing readiness to engage the Senate Committee on further discussions to bring them on board to understand the importance of the exercise to national security and economy.”

A former Governor of Sokoto State and Senator representing Sokoto Central Aliyu Wamakko, yesterday condemned the Comptroller General of Customs Ali over his face-off with the Senate.

Wamakko in a statement said the Senate is unanimous that Ali’s action is an affront on the legislative arm of government, and an affront on the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“Under a military government, Col. Hameed Ali would not dare refuse the instructions of his Commanding Officer. He would definitely be charged for treason and court martial. Col. Hameed Ali is not above the law and cannot claim to love Nigeria more than 170 million Nigerians, whose mandate we exercise. The Senate will no longer tolerate affronts on its power,” Wamakko said in the statement signed by his media aide Emmanuel Ado.