Senate, Customs CG feud deepens
• Lawmakers, Ali in verbal war at NCS office
The lingering feud between the Senate and the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) worsened yesterday as both parties engaged each other in hostile verbal exchanges.It happened at the headquarters of the NCS where the Senate Ad hoc Committee had gone to investigate alleged wastages in the agency.
The confrontation was triggered by remarks made by the chairman of the committee, Dino Melaye.Melaye said: “Before reading the prepared speech of the committee, let me make this small remarks on what we have just observed here in form of breach of protocols.
“Mr. CG, rather than meeting us here at the conference room by way of courtesy, you were supposed to have met us at the ground floor on arrival into the premises.“That has been the practice of statutory bodies headed by chief executive officers like you. Relevant senate committees have over the years been accorded this by bosses of Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Prisons Service making us to wonder why it is not so here today under your leadership. If this repeats itself another time, we will take a walk.”
He drew the attention of the CG to the fact that the meeting was like a Senate session which must be accorded the same respect despite the fact that it was taking place at the premises of the NCS.Melaye, in an already charged atmosphere, declared that the committee’s meeting with NCS was more or less that of the Senate by hitting the gavel on the table before him to declare it open. He then read a prepared speech outlining how the committee would carry out its investigation.
The Customs boss, in a counter-attack, said: “We have our own protocol as regards receiving visitors like you. I don’t need to come downstairs to receive you just as nobody in the Senate or House of Representatives has ever come out to receive us anytime we visit the National Assembly.
“So, there is no breach of protocol for not coming down to welcome you since appropriate officers have been assigned to do so. Our protocol is our protocol and should be allowed to be.
“In fact, by way of etiquette, it is the committee that is supposed to come to my office first on arrival and not just coming straight to the conference room.
“ Personally, I took this job because of my commitment to serve this country selflessly having earlier done so in the military. So, nobody can tell me that I am not a committed Nigerian.“On your assignment you called economic waste, we shall cooperate with you to unearth whatever you want to unearth and effect any correction.”
The verbal exchanges later turned to practical exhibition of bitterness when the lawmakers boycotted group photographs.
The development further got the committee members bruised by the CG who, out of annoyance, walked out on them and used his convoy to block the visitors from leaving the place before him.
While Ali left the Customs Headquarters at about 2:15pm with his siren blaring convoy, the humiliated lawmakers left at about 2:20pm after being held up in their bus for about five minutes by the CG’s convoy stationed at the exit gate.
The other senators who suffered the humiliation were Sam Anyanwu, Gilbert Nnaji, Hamman Isah Misau and Babajide Omoworare.The CG had had a running battle with the Senate between 2016 and early 2017 over his mode of dressing.While the Customs boss had been performing his official function in mufti since he was appointed in 2015, the Senate wanted him to appear in uniform by ordering him to do so last year in plenary. But Ali stood his ground by appearing in mufti after which he went to court which ended the tussle.
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