Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, made good his vow not wear his service uniform as he appeared before the Senate in mufti on Thursday.
And enraged senators took turns to tongue lash him before ordering him out of the chamber with a directive to return on Wednesday, March 22 properly dressed with his Customs service uniform.
Since his appointment as Customs chief in December 2015, Ali had never won his uniform to denote his status as Comptroller General. But the issue came to the fore when the Senate summoned him to appear before it over the now suspended initiative to collect import duty from old vehicles already registered in the country.
The Senate had expressly directed Ali to appear in his service uniform.
“Coming was just one part of our invitation, another part is that you wear uniform. Why are you not in uniform?” Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, queried Ali, after he had observed protocols.
Reading from the content of the letter, Ali said “this letter did not connote that I should wear uniform.”
But Ekweremadu responded that Wednesday’s letter was “further to the earlier letters which indicated that you should wear uniform. So this is a reminder.
“More importantly, this is official. We have received military chiefs and the Inspector General of Police and they all wore their uniform.”
Justifying his refusal to wear service uniform, Ali replied: “My not wearing uniform does not breach any law. No law, to my knowledge, that compels me to wear uniform. There is no law that says in doing my service, I have to wear uniform.”
This elicited a series of rebuke from senators with Deputy Leader, Bala Na’Allah, drawing from the Customs and Excise Management Act which, according to him, compels all rank and file to be appropriately dressed with their service uniform.
Noting that Ali was oblivious of the law, Na'Allah said “I am happy you said you needed legal opinion. Now you have got it."
The Senate unanimously resolved to deny Ali audience following George Sekibo’s motion.
The Senate also resolved that he should appear again next Wednesday in uniform, after the lawmakers took turns to chide the Customs boss.
Olamilekan Solomon (APC-Lagos), Barnabas Gemade (APC-Benue) and Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano) also rebuked Ali and insisting he must wear uniform on the next scheduled appearance.
After the resolution, Mr. Ekweremadu explained to Ali that Section 2 of the Customs Act provides that all officers, including the comptroller-general, must wear uniform.
“As number one officer, you should lead by example,” Ekweremadu counseled the Customs chief.