…says only lazy Nigerians now complain of hunger
Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) yesterday stressed that but for the love of country; President Muhammadu Buhari has no reason to remain in Aso Rock, in his current age of over 70 years.
The Customs boss, who stated this when he led the Buhari Support Organization to meet with the President, said Buhari has made a great sacrifice by choosing to abandon his comfort zone in order to serve Nigeria and improve the lives of the citizens.
“I have said it and I will repeat it here, Mr President, with all due respect, at 70 plus, with a good retirement benefit and with your house in Daura, if I were you, I will see no reason to be in this arena.
“But why are you here? It is because you love this great country. You left your comfort to serve Nigeria and that is why for those of us who love you for who you are, said we must follow you and ensure that your second term in this country becomes a reality,” he said.
Buhari had told a gathering of Nigerian citizens resident in South Africa in June 2015, a month after he was sworn in, that there was a limit to what he could do given that age was no longer on his side.
“I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do,” Buhari told his audience on the sidelines of the 25th assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Johannesburg, South Africa.
While speaking yesterday, Ali explained that the three years of the Buhari-led government has changed Nigeria for the better.
He said: “Today is 2018. Way back in 2014, for those who did not know when you talked about your integrity, your achievements as a governor, as a minister, those that have gone are the ones who will understand what we are talking. Those of us who have experienced these past years know exactly what it was.
“But today, 2018, those of us here know that your being president has changed this country. Three years into your tenure, the tremendous achievements that have been made, we have laid the foundation, we have started building roads, but Mr President, we must complete the building.
“What do we need to do? We must, as your loyalists and people who believe in this country, tell you that we are with you shoulder to shoulder and ensure that you are re-elected. And then the building will be completed so that never again will there because to destroy Nigeria,” he added.
Ali continued that: “For me, you have been my mentor in service and out of service and I have been fortunate enough to have worked very closely with you. And so when I say some of these things I am saying, it from the bottom of my heart because I know you, I know your commitment and your respect to this great nation.
“Mr President, it is always politics, and when politicians speak, they speak with two sides of the mouth. Some of us from the North-East were not praying in the mosques, some of us from the North-East had moved from our places of abode to settle somewhere else. And Mr President, here in the city, the seat of government, there were booms going off every day.
“Today, we can sleep with eyes closed, today I drive at midnight, today we can breathe the air and most importantly, those of us who are Muslims can pray in the mosques during Ramadan. That would never have happened. I remember as far as Kaduna is from the North-East, we could hardly sleep at night because of insecurity. Today, we have that security. What else are we looking for?
Ali said that with the achievement recorded by the government, only lazy people who chose not to work, are presently lazy.
“What more can we say in terms of growth of wealth? People say we are hungry; of course, the lazy must be hungry because if you do not work hard, Manna doesn’t fall from heaven.
“So when people say we are hungry, there was never a time in Nigeria that food is dropped in the mouth of the people and they can never be. I can go on and on and enumerate what you have done in just three years of your administration,” Ali said. (New Telegraph)
The Comptroller-General of Customs Compliance Task Force, says it has impounded 223 vehicles 13 of which belong to a senator in Kano State.
The task force also said that it seized other items, including foodstuffs worth N269.5m in Kano and Jigawa states within eight months.
The Task Force Zonal Commander, Mr. Bala Dole, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kano on Monday.
He said the vehicles, belonging to the said senator were; 12 new Toyota Hilux and one Land Cruiser Jeep.
Dole, who declined to name the senator, said the 13 vehicles were trailed from Maigatari in Jigawa State following an intelligence report.
“Based on the intelligence report, the vehicles were 30 in number but we were able to trail 13 of them 12 of which were hidden in the senator’s compound.
“We sealed the house and retrieved the vehicles and they are now in our custody,” Dole said.
He said the other items the task force confiscated during special operations included 9,757 bags of rice, 2,916 of foreign spaghetti, 2,770 cartons of foreign vegetable oil and 999 cartons of macaroni.
He said others were; 889 veils of second-hand clothes, 50 used school bags, 110 cartons of new foreign shoes, 956 bags of mosquito coil and six fairly used cars.
“The total value of the seizure made by the task force since it was established in July 2016, excluding the 13 senator’s vehicles, is N269.5m.
“We have yet to determine the cost of the 13 vehicles belonging to the senator,” he said. (Punchng.com)
Leke Baiyewu and Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), has dropped his earlier plan not to honour the summons of the Senate.
A reliable source close to the leadership of the Senate told one of our correspondents on Tuesday that Ali was advised to honour the Senate invitation in order to avert a clash between the Legislature and the Executive.
Ali had told the Senate, in a letter, that he would not appear before the lawmakers on Wednesday (today) as his summons to the chamber coincided with the routine management meeting of the NCS.
The Customs boss requested the upper chamber of the National Assembly to fix another date for his appearance.
Ali’s letter, which was signed by an Assistant Comptroller General, Azarema Abdulkadir, was read to lawmakers at the plenary on Tuesday.
The Senate had, on Thursday, asked the Customs boss to appear before it “unfailingly” on Wednesday, stating that Ali would not be admitted into the chamber if he failed to appear in the uniform of the service showing his rank as the DG.
A source told The PUNCH that the Customs boss was advised by the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senate, Ita Enang, to meet with Senate President Bukola Saraki ahead of his appearance before the Senate on Wednesday (today).
On Tuesday evening, Ali arrived at the National Assembly complex at 5.30pm.
He first had a short meeting with the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, before moving to Saraki’s office, where they had a closed-door meeting.
Security operatives shielded the Customs boss from journalists when he was approached for comments after the meeting.
He left the National Assembly at 6.45pm.
The letter was dated March 14, 2017, and was delivered to Saraki after the plenary.
According to the source, the Customs DG disregarded his first letter to the Senate, in which he informed the Senate of his intention not to appear before the lawmakers on Wednesday.
“He wrote a second letter after the Presidency’s intervention.
‘‘There are more chances now that he will answer the Senate’s summons tomorrow. People are now seeking soft landing for him,” the source said.
Unlike the first letter which was signed by an Assistant Comptroller General, Ali personally signed the second letter.
In the second letter, the Customs DG made no reference to the first letter.
The second letter read, “May I respectfully refer to your letter dated 9 March and inform Your Excellency that the decision on payment of Customs duties by vehicle owners, who do not have them as prescribed by law, is currently being reviewed. The goal of the review is to take a broad additional input from the stakeholders and the public. I will welcome the opportunity to avail the Senate of our findings.
“Regarding the wearing of uniform, I wish to advise that the Senate avails itself of the legal basis of its decision to compel me to wear uniform.
“I am similarly taking legal advice on this issue so that both the Senate and I will operate within the proper legal framework.”
Senators berate Ali over planned boycott of invitation
Earlier on Tuesday, the Senate had insisted that Ali, who had informed the lawmakers that he would not be able to appear before them, must show up before the legislators on Wednesday (today) as requested.
The lawmakers, who took turns to condemn the service for defying an order stopping it from implementing its new duty on old vehicles, resolved to “invite the Comptroller General of Customs to appear in plenary and in uniform.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided over the Tuesday plenary, directed the Clerk to the Senate, to whom Ali’s letter was addressed, to read it to lawmakers at the session.
The letter titled ‘Re:Invitation to brief the Senate,’ read, “I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter (with Reference 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 Nigeria Customs Service –Wednesday, 15th March, 2017 – to brief the Senate in plenary on the retrospective duty payment on vehicles in Nigeria has coincided with the fortnight meeting of the NCS management.
“Consequently, the Comptroller General is humbly requesting a new date from the distinguished Senate.
“As we await your favourable response, please be assured of the highest regards and esteem of the Comptroller General of Customs.”
While the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, pleaded for a soft landing for the Customs boss, other lawmakers disagreed.
The aggrieved senators, who pointed out that the Customs’ management was not superior to the federal legislature, criticised Ali’s failure to personally sign the letter.
Lawan stated, “First, the excuse for not appearing tomorrow is because it coincided with routine fortnightly meeting of the management of the Nigeria Customs Service. My opinion is that that does not take precedence over the invitation by the Senate.
“Second, the letter was signed by someone else, not the CG. My opinion is: a letter coming to the Senate from the Customs, especially when an invitation was written to the Customs CG to appear here; he should have taken personal interest in writing and signing it; that would have given my judgment some sense of respect for the institution, not for us.”
Lawan, while pleading that the lawmakers postpone Ali’s appearance to Thursday, hinted that the part of the grievances against the postponement was that the Senate plenary would be aired live on Wednesday.
The Majority Leader said, “Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I feel slighted and I am sure everybody feels the same. However, let me add that this Senate should, if possible, oblige the request for the extension, to show that we are different. “Let’s take him on Thursday, if he is saying he can’t be available tomorrow. Two wrongs will not make a right. I know we feel hurt but distinguished colleagues, whether it is live coverage or not, Nigerians have interest in this and Nigerians will like to listen to the responses and explanations of the CG of Customs.”
In his submission, Senator James Manager, described the Senate as an institution built over the years.
“The integrity of this Senate is being tested. When letters like this are coming from executive bodies, the Senate must take a very firm stand.
“I disagree with my leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, with the greatest possible respect. If the CG had written (the letter and it) was signed by him 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 would have been understandable.
“But, the man asked somebody else to sign this letter to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is very significant.
“This is an arm of government. Although the House of Representatives is there, this is the highest lawmaking body of this country and somebody like the CG (will be) writing a letter signed by somebody else, saying ‘I am directed’ to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Certainly, this is not a matter of two wrongs not making a right.
“The Comptroller General of Customs must appear tomorrow.”
Saraki, after asking if there was any lawmaker against what Lawan and Manager said, and none differed, stated that Ali must appear in uniform before the lawmakers on Wednesday as earlier requested by the legislature.
He said, “I don’t think there is the need for us to prolong this issue and the position of the Senate is clear: he should appear tomorrow as directed and in uniform as in the earlier resolution. And we are waiting to see him here tomorrow by 10.30am.”
After the plenary, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, while briefing journalists, however, described the reason cited by Ali for his impending non-appearance as an insult to the Senate.
“This is an insult to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Senate is not taking it lightly,” Abdullahi said.
The Senate’s spokesman noted that Nigerians must stand up for “situations like this” as the issue for which Ali was summoned was “not only dear to Nigerians but it is something we consider very critical.”
Abdullahi said in part, “We are saying that Nigerians must not be taken for granted. What we are saying here is that the Nigeria Customs Service is being run in a manner it wants Nigerians to pay for its inefficiencies.
“The law setting it up is clear on what it should do. And nobody is telling us about the measures put in place to deal with those who are responsible for the leakages and misstep that have taken place, leading to wrong importation and payment of duty.
“Tomorrow, we have a date with the Comptroller General and may God spare our lives till tomorrow.
“It is not about Ali, it is about the rule of law; it is about ensuring that the right thing is done; it is about defending the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at all times.
Ali had on March 9, 2017, through a circular, issued a one-month ultimatum – from March 13 to April 12, 2017 – for owners of all vehicles within the country, whose correct customs duties had not been fully paid, to do so.
But last Tuesday, the upper chamber of the National Assembly rejected the policy, stating that the NCS had no legal backing to implement such a directive.
The next day, the service defied the directive from the Senate, insisting that the one-month ultimatum for owners of such vehicles to pay the appropriate duties remained sacrosanct.
Consequently, the Senate summoned Ali to appear before it and explain the policy.
Ali’ll do the appropriate thing –Customs
When contacted on Tuesday to find out if Ali would honour the Senate’s invitation in view of the insistence of the lawmakers that the Customs CG must appear before them on Wednesday, the Acting Public Relations Officer, NCS, Joseph Attah, simply said the CG would do the right thing.
“He would do the appropriate thing. The CG would do the appropriate thing,” Attah said without being specific.
When pressed to confirm if doing “the appropriate thing” means that the CG would appear before the Senate as directed, Attah stated, “I have the confidence that the CGC will do the appropriate thing.” (Punchng.com)
Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), has told the Senate that he would not appear before the lawmakers on Wednesday as it coincided with the routine management of the NCS.
The Customs boss asked the upper chamber of the National Assembly fix another date for his appearance.
Ali’s letter was read to lawmakers at the plenary on Tuesday.
The letter was signed by an Assistant Comptroller General.
The lawmakers condemned Ali for relegating the Senate and for failing to personally sign the letter.
President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki, after listening to the aggrieved lawmakers, said Ali must appear before the lawmakers on Wednesday and in uniform as requested by the legislature. (Punchng.com)
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senator Solomon Adeola, who represents Lagos West, has said the Senate resolution, asking the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Comptroller General (CG), Col. Hameed Ali, to appear in service uniform was aimed at protecting the organisation’s integrity.
He added that the move was also to safeguard the discipline of the Customs as well as protect the interest of Nigerians.
Responding to reports on Colonel Ali’s promise to appear before the Senate in mufti, Senator Adeola said it was regrettable that a retired army colonel wants to demean and undermine the symbolic importance of uniform, discipline and the authority it confers on the agency.
“Military and paramilitary uniforms inclusive of ranks are part of the symbol of legitimate authority conferred on the wearer to carry out certain duties on behalf of the government. Except in covert operations, an officer in these organisations, operating without uniform could be taken to be performing illegal duty or worse, be taken as not representing the institution at all. And as stated on the floor of the Senate in plenary, the Comptroller General is rank that can only be worn on uniform and not on mufti,” the senator stated.
Adeola said there was concern among officers and men of the Customs on the appointment of an ‘outsider’ to head the agency, as it is a morale killer, career progression inhibitor as well as damaging to the organisational growth of the service.
He stressed that there might be need to amend the Nigerian Customs Service Act to restrict appointment of CG to career officers, as is done in the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Immigration and the Nigerian Prisons Service.
Said he: “The APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari was elected on the promise of change, adherence to rule of law and renunciation of impunity in any form. The story we hear daily is the arrogance and high handedness of the CG and name dropping of the president. We had it on good authority of his reluctance to be answerable to the Minister of Finance as stipulated in laws of the land. “We will not look the other way while the people we represent are subjected to avoidable hardship orchestrated by an unelected appointee, in a bid to cure the inefficiencies of the agency he leads. We are in a democracy. We respect the right of our president to appoint those he believes can do the job among the teaming millions of Nigerians, but in recent times the operations of the Nigeria Customs, with midnight ‘break ins’, seizing of items and killings, leading to protests and demonstration by the citizenry require that the National Assembly seeks clarifications from the leadership of Customs.
“We cannot allow the return of impunity and disregard of due process and rule of law. If retired Colonel Ali cannot respect the Customs Service or is ashamed of wearing its uniform and rank of his position while appearing before the people’s representatives, then he should honourably resign.
“We have had a Major General, Haladu Hanniya, as head of FRSC, wearing the agency’s uniform as well as a Major Danjuma Maigari, wearing even the KAI uniform in Lagos State, all in a bid to promote agencies they lead. This is not the Abacha military era when a sole administrator was appointed to head the Nigerian Customs,” Senator Adeola stated. (The Sun)