Senate – Customs face-off: Hameed Ali in secret meeting with Saraki

Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali
Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali

The Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, Tuesday evening held a closed-door meeting with Senate President Bukola Saraki, hours after it appeared a showdown was imminent between the Senate and the retired army colonel.

“He (Mr. Ali) has come and gone,” a Senate President’s office insider told PREMIUM TIMES at 6:40 p.m.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Ali had written the Senate, notifying the lawmakers of his intention not to appear before them as scheduled because he had to attend a customs management meeting slated for Wednesday, same day he was expected at the Senate.

But the lawmakers passed a resolution, reaffirming last Thursday’s decision that Mr. Ali must appear in uniform by 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

But afterwards, he wrote a second letter, this one directly to Mr. Saraki, spokespersons for the Senate President confirmed.

The Cable exclusively reported the content of the second letter which informed the Senate President of the decision to review the policy on vehicles without duty payment, but recommended legal opinion on the compulsion to wear uniform to appear before the Senate.

The Cable reported, quoting Mr. Ali’s letter: “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 to wearing of uniform, I wish to advice 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.”

The new development is strongly suggestive of Mr. Ali’s readiness to appear before the Senate tomorrow, but he is very unlikely to appear in uniform.

According to our source, the meeting with Mr. Saraki was to “water the ground” ahead of his appearance tomorrow.

“He will appear but he may not wear uniform,” said the source. “Then, as you can see he has said the service is reviewing the policy on duty payment.”

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari prevailed on Mr. Ali to appear before the Senate as scheduled, stressing that he does not want further executive-legislature friction.

Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, declined comment on the president’s intervention.

But Customs’ spokesperson, Joseph Attah, informed PREMIUM TIMES that his principal was involved in “further communication” with senators about the stand-off.

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