RELATIONS between Nigerian Senate and the Nigeria Customs Service worsened on Monday when the Senate’s ad hoc Committee on Economic Waste in the Nigeria Customs Service visited the office of Colonel Hammed Ali (rtd), comptroller general, CG, of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS in Abuja.
During the visit the Senators and Ali traded insults at the Customs Headquarters with the former being embarrassed and humiliated by the later, who lectured them on etiquette.
It all began with the remarks by Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), chairman of the Committee, when he raised his voice in speaking to the Customs CG, accusing him of violating protocol in the way he ignored the Senators on their arrival.
Melaye before reading the prepared speech of the Committee said: “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 are 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 Immigration Service, Prison Service etc, making us to wonder why it is not so here today under your leadership.
“Therefore, before proceeding further, on account of this observation, we want the Customs management to know that the presence of this Committee before it implies that the Senate itself is before it to put things in order as regards the economic waste taking place in the Customs Service requiring the seriousness it deserves from you and the entire management.”
Senator Melaye, in an already charged atmosphere, bemused the Customs top management officers further by declaring that the Committee’s meeting with them was more or less that of the Senate by hitting the gavel on the table before him to declare the meeting open.
He, thereafter, read a prepared speech outlining how the committee would carry out its investigation on alleged economic waste in Customs Service.
Responding the Customs CG 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.
“Let me state clearly that we in the Nigeria Customs Service are servants of the people. We believe in Nigeria and working with others to make it great without being railroaded in anyway.
“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’m not a committed Nigeria. On your assignment you called economic waste, we shall cooperate with you to unearth whatever you want to unearth and effect any correction if there is any!” he said.
The verbal counter punch thereafter moved to practical exhibition of bitterness between the Senate Committee and the Customs management first with boycott of group photographs by the members of the Senate Committee after the interaction.
The angry CG, seeing the lukewarm attitude of the Senators toward the call for a group photographs, disgraced them by walking out of the meeting room through another door as the Senators filed out through the main door.
Further humiliation was visited on the Senators as they were prevented from leaving the premises of the Customs Headquarters even when they had taken their seats in the Coaster Bus that brought them to the place, in preparation to leave.
While the bus conveying the Senators was prepared to move, it was prevented from doing so as the aides of the CG had lined the convoy of their boss on the main road leading out of the premises, effectively blocking the Senators from leaving, blaring their siren loudly and preventing anyone from moving until the Customs CG had come downstairs from his office, entered his vehicle and had driven out of the premises to the consternation of the embarrassed Senators.
Senators, who suffered the humiliation along with Senator Melaye were Sam Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), Gilbert Nnaji (PDP, Enugu East), Hamman Isah Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) and Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun East).
It would be recalled that the Customs CG before yesterday’s bitter encounter with the Senate’s ad – hoc committee, had running battle with the Senate as a whole between 2016 and early 2017 over his mode of dressing.
While the Customs boss have been performing his official function in mufti since 2015 after appointment, the Senate wanted him to appear in uniform by ordering him to do so last year in plenary but stood his ground by appearing in mufti after which he went to court which brought an end to the tussle. – (With reports from Independent)
– Jan. 30, 2018 @ 03:40 GMT