On Thursday, the Nigerian Senate walked out the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali for not appearing in uniform.
The Senators by a voice vote directed him to return to the senate on Wednesday, March 22 in proper uniform designated for the office of Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service.
Shortly before the resolution, some senators expressed concern over Ali’s defiance of the National Assembly by appearing in mufti despite the letter sent to him, specifying that he should appear in uniform. Ali appearance at the Red Chambers was hinged on him to give explanations on the proposed duty payment on vehicles imported into Nigeria.
On, this there have been several divisions as to whether the Customs Boss, a former military administrator, is mandated by law as the top official to wear uniform or not. His car and aircraft carry the official logo of Customs but he wears mufti. Also, his salary is as 'Customs' Boss. But he wears mufti.
The Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala N’Allah yesterday said Ali's defiance was a slap on the Senate, as an institution. N’Allah who quoted Section 10 of the Customs Act, among other sections, said the section was clear about punishment for unlawful behaviour of any officer, “including any person who assumes the name, designation or character of an officer.
“The Act further states that the power to prosecute is that of executive and certain officers including CG has that power.
“This implies that your position is statutory, meaning you must conform to the Act.
“Besides, wearing a uniform is anchored in the Constitution.
What does Customs Act says about wearing uniforms?
According to sections seven, eight and 10 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), “for the purpose of carrying out or enforcing the provisions of the customs and excise laws, all officers shall have the same powers, authorities and privileges as are given by law to police officers”.
The Customs Act is silent on wearing uniforms, as customs officers, but the link with the police, may be interpreted to mean that an officer should don the uniform for official duties.
However, the Act defines an “officer” as “any person employed in the Nigerian Customs Service, or for the time being performing duties in relation to customs or excise”. By this definition, Ali is the number one officer at NCS, and officers wear uniforms.