The war of attrition between the upper chamber of the National Assembly and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hammed Ibrahim Ali (retired) has deepened with the NCS helmsman treating members of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Economic Waste in Nigeria with ignominy.
The Senate had last year insisted that Ali who was during his hey days in the Nigerian Army was the military governor of Kaduna State should wear his official uniform before appearing in its hallow chamber.
Ali did not only refuse to wear the uniform but has continued to ignore the lawmakers since then.
Not a few had expected that the visit of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Economic Waste in Nigeria to NCS Headquarters, Abuja would smoothen the rough edges in the relationship between Ali and the lawmakers. It was a wild goose chase as ego and supremacy contest took the centre stage while the primary purpose of the visit was thrown to the dustbin.
The drama was triggered by remarks made by Chairman of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, over the way the Senate delegation was received by Ali and his management team at the NCS Headquarters, Abuja.
The vocal legislator argued that by protocol, Ali was expected to come down from his office to welcome the committee members into NCS premises.
Melaye who represents Kogi West senatorial district maintained that it was a breach of protocol for the NCS helmsman to casually meet the delegation at the conference room.
According to him, the practice of ushering in the Senate delegation has been the norm with statutory bodies like NCS, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) and others over the years.
The lawmaker wondered why such established etiquette which was the norm under previous Comptroller Generals of Customs was not accorded the committee by Ali.
His words: “Before reading the prepared speech of the committee, let me make this small remark 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. 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 and others, making us to wonder why it was 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.”
Apparently not pleased with the stand of the legislators, Ali told the Senate delegation that the NCS has its own protocol that is different from other public establishments.
His words: “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 etiquette. It is the committee that is supposed to come to my office first on arrival and not coming straight to the conference room. It is the committee that breached the protocol. Let me state clearly that we in the Nigeria Customs Service are servants of the people. We believe in Nigeria and working with others to make it great without being harassed and railroaded in any way”.
As if the hot exchanges of words were not enough, more drama ensued downstairs as the Senators refused having the traditional group photograph with the top echelon of Customs High Command just as Ali in a show of power and utter contempt for the senators stormed out of the NCS Headquarters in a convoy.
Apparently aware that the legislators may leave the NCS Headquarters ahead of him in anger, Ali ensured that the bus that conveyed the senators was blocked from leaving the premises. It was after Ali has left the premises in his convoy that the vehicles blocking the bus were removed. That the senators were humiliated was to say the least.