Thursday, 9 March 2017

Appear before us in Uniforms – Senate tells Customs boss

 The Senate has mandated the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali to appear in plenary on March 15, unfailingly to address the issue of Customs Tax Duties on vehicles.

The Senate also directed that the CG, Ali must appear in the appropriate uniforms of the Customs Service and not in `mofty’.

This followed a Point of Order raised by Sen. Dino Melaye on a publication in Daily Sun newspaper of March 9, which reads: “Customs dares Senate, says no going back on implementation of duties on old vehicles”.

The Senate had recently directed the Customs to stop the plan to punish anyone who failed to pay duties on vehicles within a month of bringing them into the country.

The NCS had given vehicle owners one month to get their customs papers as any vehicle found without such papers would be seized after the one month period.

The resolution to stop the new policy by the Customs Service followed a motion by Deputy Majority Leader, Sen. Bala Na’Allah, who described the new policy as a serious matter.

According to Melaye, the most important arm of government is the legislature and the Nigeria Customs cannot function without the National Assembly.

“The customs cannot spend or survive without appropriation and oversight.

“ And if this senate will take a resolution and an agency of government will have the guts and the strength to disregard the institution of the senate, it is not good for democracy,” he said.

Melaye said that government existed to serve the people and not the people in government, adding that if the senate had taken a position in the interest of Nigerians and an institution of government would disrespect the Senate, “it is unacceptable’’.

“I hope this was a misrepresentation that they did not take that position.

“This comment can only be made in a military government, where an individual, a parastatal or an institution of government will confront the power of the senate,” he said.

Sen. Solomon Olamilekan (APC-Lagos) said that there was the need to put to a stop “to the high-handedness of the Comptroller-General of Customs’’.

“The Comptroller-General is carrying out the affairs of Customs as if he is the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria. If he cannot wear the uniform, then it is an insult to the customs,” he said.

He called on the National Assembly to amend the existing law that established such agencies to ensure that heads of the agencies would be subjected to confirmation by the assembly.

Sen. Kabiru Marafa (APC-Zamfara) said that the customs was an agency of government meant to serve Nigerians and the country being a democratic government had a duty to protect its citizens.

“This kind of impunity cannot be allowed to happen,” he said.

Similarly, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan said that whatever government was doing should be in the interest of Nigerians.

“We must invite the Comptroller-General to explain what he intends to do. We must not rely completely on what the Newspaper said.

He also called on the authorities of customs to come up with strategies that would stop the infiltration by smugglers into the country.

In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who presided over plenary said that the activities of customs lately had been of concern to all.

“Part of our responsibilities as parliamentarians is to maintain peace. And anything that will cause breach of the peace, then it is our responsibility to ensure that we stop it.

“While we fight corruption, we must also in equal measure fight impunity. We cannot allow impunity to take root in this country,” he said. NAN

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