The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.) has received the backing of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who wrote to the Senate President , Dr. Bukola Saraki, saying it will be sub-judicial for the upper chamber to insist that should wear the NCS uniform.
Ali , made this information available to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, said the AGF wrote the Senate President following a suit filed by a lawyer, Mohammed Ibrahim, on the issue of uniform.
He said, “We have received a writ of summons from a court on the issue in the Senate. That is the issue of uniform. This morning when we received that, we communicated with the AGF because he is our overall law officer. We said that we had received the writ of summons. What do we do in this regard? The AGF wrote a letter to the Senate President and copied us that based on the summons from the court, all matters relating to the issue are now sub-judicial. We will not appear in the Senate because of the court summons. We will not appear until the court makes a pronouncement.”
The Senate confirmed that it had been communicated on the litigation.
When contacted, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, could not however, confirm if the lawmakers would still be expecting the Customs DG today (Wednesday).
When asked if the Senate had received a letter from the AGF, he said, “There is a communication but I have not seen the content. So, I am unable to make any concrete response for now. I am not the man (Ali), so I can’t say whether the man is coming or not.”
The plaintiff, Ibrahim, in the suit he filed at the Federal High Court Abuja on Monday included Ali, NCS, the National Assembly, the Senate President and the AGF as defendants.
In the suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/207/2017, Ibrahim is seeking a declaration of the court that appointment of the first defendant (CG customs) having been made pursuant to Section 5 and 171 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) “cannot be subjected to the provisions of Customs and Excise Management Act or any other law.”
He also asked the court to declare that the CG “not being a commissioned officer of the Nigeria Customs Service is not mandated by law to wear the NCS uniform.”
Ibrahim urged the court to declare that “the oversight functions of the National Assembly do not extend to compelling, mandating and enforcing the first defendant (CG) to appear before it in uniform.”
The lawyer is also seeking “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd (the National Assembly) and the fourth defendants (Senate President) from mandating, compelling and enforcing the first defendants to wear uniform in the performance of his duties.”
Ali had earlier in an interview with State House correspondents on Tuesday cited the writ of summons as the reason why he would not honour the Senate’s invitation.
He said his attendance at the Senate plenary as scheduled by the federal lawmakers would be sub-judicial.
Ali spoke with State House correspondents shortly after emerging from the mosque located beside the President’s office inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Customs boss who was wearing a white kaftan jokingly told the reporters that the kaftan was his uniform.
He said he had received the writ of summons from the case instituted by a concerned individual on the matter.
Ali said, “The case is in court already. Somebody has sued us. It is sub-judicial.
“I have gotten my writ of summons and they said the status quo should remain ante which means nothing moves until the court makes a pronouncement.
“A private individual sued all of us, he wants an interpretation of the section that is in contention. I don’t want to talk so that I am not held in contempt of court.”
Later on Tuesday, in an interview with journalists at the NCS headquarters, Abuja, Ali said that the service was refining the proposed policy on payment of vehicle duty.
“We are still looking at it. We are consulting. We look at the policy and refine it and apply it without causing hardship to Nigerians. We are not going to be as hard as people think. We are human beings.” he said.
He explained that the service initially fixed four locations for payment of vehicles duty because it was formerly restricted to car deaHe also allayed fears over the enforcement of the policy, which would mandate owners of vehicles that were seven years and below to pay duty on them.
Ali stated, “We are not going to mount road blocks from Aba to Port Harcourt and search every vehicle that comes. That is what scares people. People thought we would mount road blocks. We have been doing stop and search based on the law that allows us to do that.”
The customs boss also flayed some influential people in the country for evading duties.
He said, “The truth is that when I came in one of the difficult tasks is how to deal with, ‘big men.’ Big time businessmen in the past have created a situation that they were the beneficiaries of waivers and concessions. Huge amount of money is lost in this country through waivers and concessions.
“If John decides to import things as a trader, he is meant to pay duty, why should Ali, because he is a big businessman and has a status in the society be given waiver when the law is clear about it?”
He said that service had the support of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue of payment of duties.
“The President agrees with us and the political will is behind us. As of today, apart from the statutory waivers, which the law allows, the President has not approved one single waiver,” he stated.
On the 611 rifles seized by customs, he stated, “We have completed our criminal investigation aspects of it,” adding that NCS officers involved would soon face disciplinary actions.
He added, “You also understand that weapon is a security problem. The law does not allow us to investigate the security aspects. The NSA (National Security Adviser) directed that we handed over the evidence and suspects to the DG, Department of State Services for further investigations.
Ali said that security investigations would reveal the destinations of the containers.
He said that the NCS conceived the policy on vehicle duty because of security implications and the need to raise revenue.
Ali stated, “We want to capture all vehicles and link them to owners because of the criminal nature of things that are happening in this country. Somebody can pick your car and go and commit crime with it. Because we do not have the data, we cannot trace the car to the owner.”
Source: ( Punch Nigeria )