Maritime lawyers and other stakeholders have cautioned the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col Hameed Ali (rtd) over his utterances that have been described as full of intimidation to officers and men of the Service.
Ali had during his familiarization visit to Zone ‘B’ of the Service reportedly said that if he had his way, he would recommend death penalty for corrupt customs officers or a maximum of 10 years jail term.
But maritime lawyers said Ali appears to be running down the morale of his officers with his statements, adding that this was not the best for the Service.
Ali’s statement, according to Barrister Fred Akhokia is “totally unacceptable and irresponsible”.
Akokhia, who is a former senior customs officer and Deputy President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said that the statement from the customs boss is “a form of intimidation which is illegal in law and a demotivation to the morale of the officers and men of the Customs Service”.
Akokhia said that the retired Colonel should be told that Nigeria is not in a military regime for the type of statements he makes in his assignment to reform the Service.
“Col Ali should be told that we are not in a military regime. He is not a court of law,” he said.
Another maritime lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Ofomata, while reacting to the statements credited to Ali, called on the customs boss to exercise caution and be sure he carries out enough investigation in the case of any allegation against customs officers.
Ofomata said there should be need for independent investigation in any allegation of corruption against officers since such allegation could be wide.
He said that while 10 years jail term may not be out of place, the call for death penalty was not the best.
National President, National Council of Managing Director of Customs Agents (NCMDCA), Lucky Amiwero also condemned the threat against customs officers by Ali.
Reminding the Customs boss that Nigeria is not in a military regime, Amiwero said the customs boss should follow laid down laws in any punishment that would be meted out against any officer.
He said his assignment to reform the service should not contradict the laws of the land.
He also warned Ali against playing the role of the prosecutor and the judge, adding that only the court can determine the jail term for any offender.
Amiwero said that Ali needs to know that whatever law he wants to be in place, has to pass through the National Assembly.
“Ali should stop wishful thinking. He should be reminded that we are not in a military regime”, he said.
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