As the Cat and mouse game between the customs comptroller general and the senate continues, following the summons of the (CG) of Nigeria custom service to appear before it in his uniform over the retrospect vehicle duty verification policy and his refusal to honour the summons on Wednesday which culminated in the senate declaring Ali unfit to occupy public office
The senators further called for his resignation as the helmsman of the Customs Service, because he refused to show respect for the Senate despite being an appointee of the government.
The lawmakers also condemned what they described as undue interference and non-adherence to the principle of the separation of powers by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), whose letter had asked the Senate to stay action on the face-off with Ali.
The Senate resolved to write a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to urge restraint of the AGF.
Furthermore, the lawmakers demanded the outright cancellation of the contentious car duty policy, which has been suspended and is being reviewed by the NCS.
They asked the NCS to adopt all measures within its Act to ensure that import duties are properly collected at all borders.
Ali refused to appear before the Senate on Wednesday citing a lawsuit instituted by a private person at a Federal High Court in Abuja restraining the Senate from compelling the Customs CG to adorn his uniform.
He failed to appear despite the fact that the case had not been assigned to a judge, nor an injunction or ex parte ruling obtained ordering the Senate to maintain the status quo.
Presiding over plenary on Wednesday, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu informed the lawmakers of the letter sent in by Malami, stating that a case had been filed in court and the matter had become sub judice.
“So he (Malami) advised that every action should stop, including the attendance of the Comptroller General of Customs to this hallowed chamber,” Ekweremadu said, following which he directed the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, to read the letter.
The senators were however miffed that Malami had advised the Senate to stay action on what is considered the constitutional duty of the legislature.
Reacting, Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo North) argued that since Nigeria operates as a democracy which is established on the principles of separation of powers, no arm of government can stop another from carrying out its legislative duties.
He cited the 2013 case of the impeached Deputy Governor of Imo State, Mr. Jude Agbaso, by the state House of Assembly.
Agbaso had challenged his removal up to the Supreme Court, which upheld the impeachment on the premise of separation of powers.
Echoing Uwajumogu’s argument, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) queried whether a court process can stop any arm of government from carrying out its duties.
“What we have from the AGF is an insult to the National Assembly. Where did the AGF, who we screened on this floor, derive his powers from to tell us how we should carry out our duties?
“It is not a court injunction, it is not a court order but a mere process filed by a third party and you want us, because somebody rushed to court to file a process, to abandon our responsibilities. It is another dark day for democracy” Melaye said.
Describing the position of the CG as that of a public servant, Melaye said Ali has exceeded the stipulated age for public servants and was therefore not qualified for the designation of CG.
He cited the Public Service Rules, Guidelines for Appropriation, Promotion and Discipline, and the Pension Reform Act, which all stipulate that 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service (whichever is earlier) as the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service including the Customs Service.
“We are in a democracy where we have a president who on May 29, 2015, a man of honour and integrity, told Nigerians that the fundamental principle of this government shall be the respect for the rule of law.
“Now there is a test, so the president has a choice to choose between the rule of law and Hameed Ali. We will see what will happen. There is a provision that forbids Hameed Ali from being CG.
“The president may so wish, if he wants, to appoint Hameed Ali as sole administrator,” he added.
Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central) said the enemies of the Buhari government were within the presidency, adding that they do not want the government to succeed when considering the kind of advice they are probably giving the president.
Though he did not name the persons, he said they had resumed taking steps that were capable of causing tensions in just two weeks of the president’s resumption in office from a medical vacation in London.
“In the 59 days when the president was away, did you hear about Niger Delta Avengers, or herdsmen, or media attacks? In just two weeks, he has been back, they are causing problems.
“The AGF is trying to cause problems between the National Assembly and the presidency. If he writes this kind of letter, then we should imagine the kind of advice he is giving the president,” Misau said.
“They allowed the acting president to work, maybe because he did not allow them to set him against other institutions. He (Buhari) should remove them from his government,” he added.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) cautioned against relegating the subject matter, which caused the face-off between the Senate and the Customs boss.
He lamented that the impression was being created that the Senate was more concerned about whether or not Ali wears the uniform, instead of the repressive policy of asking end users to pay import duties on their cars.
Deviating from the subject matter, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North) urged the AGF to advise the Buhari administration to obey court orders that had ordered the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, and former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
“Since he has remembered that he needs to advise Senate on court processes, then he should be mandated to advise the government to obey court orders on their release,” he said.
Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North West), however raised a point of order to the effect that the contributions could only be restricted to the subject matter that was being discussed.
Ekweremadu, also contributing to the debate, wondered why Ali was making a mountain out of mole hill over the directive on his uniform.
“God forbid a day we stop considering the budget because somebody has gone to court to challenge a section of the budget, or stop consideration of ministers because someone is challenging the certificate of one of them. It is not us versus them, we are the same government,” Ekweremadu said.
The lawmakers also resolved to send their resolutions to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
Earlier, the lawmakers had gone into a closed-door session, which lasted for one hour, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, the letter from Malami to the Senate, dated March 21, 2017, read in part: “I wish to formally intimate you that I am in receipt of a letter dated 20th March, 2017, wherein I have been given service with an Originating Summons in respect of the above subject matter (copy attached).
“The originating summons is seeking among other declarations ‘whether the oversight functions of the National Assembly extends to compelling and/or giving directive to the first defendant to wear uniform.’
“In line with the principles of the rule of law, court decisions or most importantly, the declarations sought have been deeply rooted in the constitutional provisions; I hold the view that this matter is sub judice.
“In view of three above, it is the interest of justice and rule of law to stay all actions in this case until the constitutional issues raised in the matters are resolved by the law courts.