The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) Thursday came under intense Senate pressure over his refusal to wear custom uniform since his appointment in 2015.
This is coming as a former Comptroller- Generals of Custom said that Col. Ali should have been addressed as sole administrator of NCS and not Customs CG.
The former Customs boss, Mohammed Bello who served under former President Ibrahim Babangida administration noted that since Ali was not ready to wear a uniform depicting the office and rank of Customs CG, he should have been designated sole administrator.
The altercation with Ali occurred at an interactive session the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise had with the management of Customs, Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria over an impending amendment bill aimed at restructuring the NCS.
A member of the Committee, Senator Obinna Ogba, demanded to know why Ali as Customs’ CG still appear and wear mufti close to two years after his appointment.
The Ebonyi Central Senator noted that the continuous appearance of Ali in mufti several months after his appointment appears to be “highly demoralising to officers and men of the frontline revenue generating agency”.
Ali fired back that as a former military officer, tradition does not permit him to wear any other uniform.
Ali’s response infuriated another of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye.
The visibly enraged Melaye promptly reminded the Custom CG that a retired General of the Nigerian Army, Halidu Hananiya wore Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) uniform when he was appointed Corps Marshall of the Commission.
Ali countered and told the committee that Gen. Hananiya made a fundamental mistake by wearing FRSC uniform.
The insistence of Ali that he would not wear Customs uniform angered Senator Ogba who angrily walked out of the session.
While walking out of the hearing room, Ogba retorted, “This is how you people keep on deceiving Nigerians on wrong action and still defending it.”
The Customs boss would have none of that as he refused to give in to the pressure of the committee members.
The committee also confronted Ali over the non-composition of Customs board since 2015 when it was dissolved.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, insisted that “it was wrong and in fact illegal for the Customs CG alone to promote and fire officers without the board in place.
Uzodinma mandated the CG to ensure the immediate constitution of the board in line with the Customs Act.
Uzodinma said, “You claim that the Minister of Finance is the one delaying the composition of the board; this committee is writing letters straight away to the Minister, Secretary to the Government and Attorney General of Federation to put the board in place without any further delay.”
Although the session ended almost on a sour note, Uzodinma jokingly told the Customs CG that “We are releasing you to go and sow your uniform while we continue with officials of Ministry of Finance and Central Bank.”
Bello at another session supported the committee for querying Ali over his continuous refusal to wear Customs uniform.
The former Customs boss noted that Ali should have been designated as Sole Administrator and not Comptroller-General of Customs since he was not prepared to wear Customs uniform.
Other former Customs CGs at the meeting including Buba Jacob now Gwon Gwon Jos, Bernard-Shaw Nwadialo and Ahmed Mustapha, defended the Nigeria Customs Service on implementation of destination inspection policy as against pre-shipment inspection policy which the committee said remained the existing Act.
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