- Customs block Senators’ convoy
By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The lingering crisis between the Senate and the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Col Hammed Ali (rtd) yesterday took a new turn with counter punching on etiquette, which prompted the officers of the Customs to block the convoy of the senators for their Bose to move out of the premises.
Trouble started when the Senate, through its Ad- hoc committee on Economic Waste in the Nigeria Customs Service, visited the Customs Headquarters in Abuja.
The renewed feud between the duo was triggered by remarks made by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) that the Customs CG, by way of protocol, was supposed to have come out of his office to welcome the committee members into the premises, and not just meeting them at the conference room.
He said the protocol has been the practice with statutory bodies like Customs, Immigration, Prisons etc over the years and wondered why such etiquette was not accorded the committee.
“Before reading the prepared speech of the committee, 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 supposed to have met us at the ground floor on arrival into the premises. We do not want this to repeat itself.
“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”, he said.
Senator Dino 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, upon which he read a prepared speech outlining how the committee would carry out its investigation on economic waste in Customs Service.
But after the Speech, the committee and by extension the Senate got more than what they bargained for on the planned exercise and in particular, earlier remarks made by Senator Dino Melaye from the Customs CG.
The Customs boss in a more potent counter attack told the committee that Customs has its own protocols different from other public establishment and should not be dictated to on matters of etiquette or protocol.
“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 supposed to come to my office first on arrival and not just coming straight to the conference room.
“Let me state clear that we except this job we want help 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 am 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 thundered!
The verbal counter punching 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.
A development that further got the committee members bruised by the Customs CG who apparently out of annoyance , walked out of the visitors from the premises by using his convoy to block them from leaving the place before him .
While the Customs CG left the Customs Headquarters at about 2:15pm with his siren blaring convoy, humiliated members of the Senate committee left at about 2:20pm after being held up in their bus for about 15minutes by the Customs CG Convoy stationed at the exit gate immediately after the unpalatable encounter at the conference room.
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.