Had Fela Anikulapo-Kuti still been around, he would have laughed the Nigerian Senate to scorn in its attempt to intimidate the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, by dragging him to the floor of the Senate in Customs uniform instead of his chosen mode of dressing in mufti.
Fela would have laughed because in his days the uniform was a symbol not just of authority but of authoritarianism and oppression. Many people, in those better forgotten days of military rule would give an arm and a leg to wear any kind of uniform. It was a passport to power, especially power to oppress.
Fela had to remind society, in case it had forgotten, that the uniform was made of cloth and was sewn by a tailor like any other dress or costume. “Uniform na cloth, na tailor dey sew am”, he sang.
The supreme irony in the contrived face-off between the Senate and Col. Hameed Ali was that here was a man doing the unthinkable: refusing to define his authority by the mere symbolism of uniform. The senators cannot understand the stance of the CG because they are occupational shadow-chasers. Had any of the senators been in Ali’s position, they would have beaten Idi Amin Dada in be-medalled symbolism. But as far as this writer is concerned, uniform doth not make a Comptroller-General - and I have the law to back me up on this.
Contrary to the claims of the senators, a good number of Customs officers, especially those on Excise duties, don’t wear uniform. The senate seems to think of the enforcement duties of the Customs alone, forgetting that it is also a regulatory and licensing body.
By the way, I totally agree with the senators on the issue of randomly checking imported cars on our highways for compliance with import duty regulations. That is a crazy and lazy idea. The Customs boss should stop the corruption at the ports and tighten control at known entry points. The argument about smuggling is equally silly. Customs officers are known allies of those who smuggle through unapproved bush paths. Is there any smuggling route that our Customs are not familiar with? Even if there was, that in itself would still not justify the anarchical plan to stop and interdict vehicles already in circulation. It would only create toll gates for customs officers.
Back to the issue of uniform. What does the law say?
The Nigerian Customs Service Board Act which creates the Nigerian Customs Service Board and the Customs and Excise Management Act do not stipulate that the Comptroller General must wear any kind of uniform as a condition for holding office. Also, there is no law that states that the Comptroller-General must be a serving Customs official.
Brig-Gen Samuel Ango from the Nigerian Army was appointed Comptroller General of Customs in1994. Dr. Haliru Mohammed Bello was appointed CG from outside the service in 1988. He was comptroller general of customs from 1988 to 1994. Before that, Alhaji Shehu Musa had been appointed Comptroller General of Customs from the civil service in the 1970s.
Looking at precedents in other government agencies, Dr Olu Agunloye didn’t wear uniform as Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission; Lanre Ipinmisho as DG of NDLEA didn’t either. General Bamaiyi and Mr Fulani Kwajaffa who headed NDLEA at different times did not wear uniform. Retired AIG Oyakhilome in that same position didn’t wear uniform. Mrs Roli Bode George who currently holds that office also considers the wearing of uniform optional.
So, what is all the noise in the senate about? You could say it was typical. Area boy showmanship and Trumpish pettiness. Infantile bullying by those who are so grossly overpaid they have caused a dent in our national treasury. Little wonder the “Scrap the Senate” campaign is winning more converts by the day.
Now I must ask pointedly, is there any truth in Sahara Reporters’ claim that the root of all the problem was that Customs officers impounded Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Range Rover SUV (Chassis No. SALGV3TF3EA190243) for which full import duties were not paid?
This spat with Col. Ali has blatantly exposed the low quality of many of our senators and the cerebral vacuity that predisposes them to mundane matters like the kind of costume somebody wears to their ‘hollow’ chambers. Tell them jare, Fela, “Uniform na cloth, na tailor dey sew am”.
I STAND WITH MAGU
The non-confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the EFCC did not come to me as a surprise, even as I nursed a faint hope that our ‘sinnators’ would, for once, cast aside their penchant for public display of the ‘sins’ and do the right thing.
The curious bit about the DSS authoring two different security reports about the same individual, shows how kinked the Buhari administration is. There is power play and sabotage right under the president’s nose and he hasn’t moved a muscle.
The fact that many of those who participated in Magu’s screening are under investigation by EFCC for stealing and other economic offences shows that the change mantra we have all been parroting is but a dream still. When thieves preside over the fate of their prosecutor, it is time to admit that nothing has changed.
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