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Senate, Customs CG on collision course over vehicles duty

.As the Upper Chamber insists on his appearance Wednesday

ADEKUNLE ADESUJI, Abuja

The ongoing face-off between the Senate and the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NIS), Colonel Hammed Ali (Rtd) over planned implementation of new import duty policy deepen on Tuesday as the Upper Chamber insisted that the Customs CG must appear on Wednesday in uniform.Senate had last week resolved that Colonel Hammed Ali (Rtd) must appear before the Senate dressed in Customs Uniform.

However, ‎the Customs CG in a letter written and signed on his behalf by an Assistant Comptroller –General Headquarters, Azarema Abubakar, addressed to the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh demanded for postponement of his appearance before the Senate on Wednesday because there will Nigerian Customs Management meeting  that day.

The letter read by Clerk reads: “I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter number Nass/CS/8S/R/09/29 of 9th March, 2017 on the above subject matter.

“I am further directed to inform you that the date given to the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Wednesday 15th, March 2017 to brief the senate in plenary on the retrospective duty payment of vehicles in Nigeria as coincided with the fortnight meeting of the NCS management.

“Consequently, the Comptroller General is humbly requesting for a new date from the distinguished Senate”.

Infuriated by the customs CG’s letter, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki called on the Senators to comment on the letter written to the Red Chamber.

Speaking on the letter, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who faulted the letter, said the reason cited in the letter is not concrete enough to ignore Senate’s invitation.

According to him, the reason given by the Customs CG which to him was not cogent in any way because according to him, the management meeting cited by the Customs CG as reason for his not wanting to appear before the Senate today is a mere routine exercise that should not take precedent over the Senate’s invitation and secondly, not writing and signing the letter by himself but by a subordinate inconsequential to the issue at hand and not known to the Senate.

“First, the excuse for not appearing tomorrow is because it coincided with routine fortnightly meeting of the management of the Nigerian Customs Service. My opinion is that, that does not take precedence on the invitation by the Senate.

“Secondly, the letter was signed by someone else not the CG. Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, my opinion is a letter coming to the senate from the customs especially an invitation was written for the Customs CG to appear here, he should have taken personal interest to write that  letter and signed it that would have given my judgment some sense of respect for the institution not for us’, he said.

Efforts by Senate Leader to give the Customs CG soft landing by his colleagues failed to hold water as Senator James Manager, who spoke on behalf of other Senators, kicked against the leader’s plea by declaring that Ali’s request should not be entertained since it was empty and highly insulting to the Institution of the Senate.

His words: “I disagree with my leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan with the greatest possible respect if the CG had written and signed by himself and then going further if he had established personal contact with the President of the Senate through the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, then that will have been understandable. But the man asked somebody else to sign this letter to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is very insulting.

“Certainly this is not a matter of two wrongs not making a right. Believe you me, Mr President, my respected colleagues, the Comptroller-General of Customs must appear tomorrow (Wednesday) and the reason he gave that brought the invitation here is coinciding with a small meeting that is taking place over there. A meeting that is not beyond his control as a human being but this is senate of the Federal Republic and the man is saying that because of that reason Senate should defer.

“I think this is an insult of the highest order. I think I met a very powerful Senate in 2003 and the Senate remains the same till today and by the grace of God when I am leaving here, I want to leave behind a very powerful Senate so that while over there, I will be proud of the Senate that I left behind and as we speak, there are so many products of this place who are listening and who are also hitching for action and to some that we don’t go below the standards they left behind. The Comptroller-General must appear in uniform tomorrow (Wednesday) and anything short of that certainly is not acceptable to me and I want to believe is not acceptable to all the senators and what is not acceptable to all the senators is not acceptable to all Nigerians”.

After Senator Manager’s submission, Senate President Bukola Saraki ruled thus: “We are all guided by the general view and opinion and integrity of this institution and I think it is clear and it’s a collective position as spoken by Senator James Manager. I don’t think there is need for us to prolong this issue and the position of the Senate is clear, he should appear tomorrow (Wednesday) in his uniform as directed by the Senate last week Thursday”.

 

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