The Senate has resolved to issue a warrant compelling the Comptroller- General of Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali, to appear before it at plenary.
The decision of the Senate followed a motion by Sen. George Sekibo that the senate should employ the provision of section 89 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The motion was moved following the failure of the Ali to appear before the senate on Wednesday following as the invited by the upper legislative chambers.
The motion which was seconded by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, was ruled upon by the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
“The Senate in accordance with section 89 of the 1999 constitution as amended, resolved to compel the Comptroller General Custos to appear before the Senate on Thursday 16 of March during the plenary at 10 am,’’ Saraki ruled.
Section 89 of the constitution (as amended) gives the National Assembly and its committees the power to investigate and invite any Nigerian over an investigation.
Ali on Tuesday wrote the senate twice, explaining that he would be unable to honour the invitation to appear during the plenary on Wednesday.
In the first letter signed by a staff of the NCS, Ali said that the date coincided with the monthly management meeting of the Customs Service.
The letter infuriated the Senators who viewed it as an affront and a slap on the institution and therefore restated their stance that Ali must appear on Wednesday.
The decision of the senate apparently prompted the second letter from the CG in which he pleaded for an extension of date because he was bereaved.
However, when the second letter was read on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday as the reason for the CG absence at the plenary, many of the senators were further infuriated.
Senator Kabir Marafa, in his remarks said that he was against anybody who would attempt to rubbish the institution of the Senate or any institution for that matter.
He said that the letters written by the CG was an affront on the National Assembly as an institution.
He said that it was wrong for a military officer, who should be grounded in discipline to disrespect the institution of the Senate.
Sekibo said that the matter had moved beyond the position of invitation and was now a constitutional matter.
Citing section 89 of the constitution, Sekibo said that it was now the duty of the Senate to direct the CG to honour the invitation.
“This Senate should use the processes of section 89 to compel the CG to appear tomorrow the 16th of March, he said.
But attempt by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Olusola Adeyeye, to amend the motion to issue an arrest warrant was shouted down by the lawmakers who chanted “No’’.
The decision of the Senate came at the time that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) suspended the implementation of its policy for duty payments on old vehicles.
The Customs service said that the suspension was placed in order to resolve issues with the Senate Committee on Customs.
The Acting Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr Joseph Attah, said Wednesday in Abuja that the Management of Customs had directed that the exercise be put on hold and expressed its readiness to engage the Senate Committee on further discussion.
He said that the essence was to bring the Senate on board to understand the importance of the exercise to national security and economy.
“Following the tension generated as a result of misconception and misrepresentation of the NCS planned motor duty payment, the leadership of the National Assembly and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) met with a view to resolving the impasse.
“They both agreed that the proposed motor duty payment, though in line with the provision of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C.45, LFN 2004, should be put on hold.
“While the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise interfaces with the NCS for further discussions.
“Payment of duty on vehicles or any dutiable imported item remains a civic responsibility of every patriotic Nigerian,’’ Attah said.
NAN reports that recently, the comptroller-general approved one month grace for all Nigerian vehicle owners who have not paid duties to do so or face outright seizure of the vehicles.
And this applies even to new vehicles bought from car dealers.
The service gave a window of one month, from March 13 to April 12, for car owners to pay the appropriate duty on their vehicles.
The public relations officer said that some owners of vehicles brought into the country through the land borders, obviously, did not pay duty.
Unconfirmed reports say the presidency may have waded into the crisis between the Nigerian Customs Service and the Senate to avoid a showdown.
The Senate had summoned Ali to appear before it, in his full Customs regalia, but the CG said he would not wear the uniform.
Buhari, a source in the presidency told This Day, has cautioned his appointees to avoid any confrontations with the legislature that would pit it against the executive.
In this regard, the president was said to have directed Ali to honour the Senate’s summons to prevent an escalation of the stand-off between both sides.
Ali had written to the Senate informing it that he would not be able to honour the summons, as he was due to attend a fortnightly meeting of the NCS management. -NAN