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The last may not have been heard about the crisis between the Nigerian Senate and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd). This time the disagreement was over protocols when Senator Dino Melaye (APC,Kogi West), led other members of the Senate Ad-hoc committee on Economic Waste in the Nigerian Customs Service to visit the national headquarters of the NCS. The recent exchange of words between the Senators and the Customs boss was triggered by remarks made by Melaye during the meeting, that the Comptroller General by way of protocol, ought to have come down from his office to welcome and usher the committee members into the premises and not just meeting them at the conference room. He further went ahead to say that was the protocol and practice of bodies like the Customs and Immigration over the years. The CGC, Colonel Ali replied by saying that the Customs has it’s own protocol which are quite different from those of other establishments, insisting that the agency would not allow itself to be dictated to on matters of etiquette or protocol adding that “nobody in the Senate or House of Representatives has ever come out to receive us when we visit”. He also said that it is the committee that is supposed to visit him in the office before they proceed to the conference room.

Irked by the retort of the CGC, members of the Senate Ad-hoc committee refused to take photographs with the top management of the Customs at the end of the meeting as is customary. Their negative reaction to his reply by refusing to take photographs with the top management officials angered Colonel Ali, who stormed out of the conference room into his waiting convoy and drove out of the premises . Allegations were later made by the senators that Colonel Ali used his convoy to prevent the lawmakers from leaving the premises before him.

It will be recalled that the Customs boss has had a running battle with the entire Senate between 2016 and early 2017 over his decision to dress in mufti and not uniform.

In the first place, the senate committee was obviously on a witchhunt because i do not understand the reason behind the setting up of an ad-hoc committee with a bogus mandate to probe the Customs. How do you define economic waste in a para-military agency knowing fully well that such definitions could be subjective and that no member of the committee has a background in the security sector? For example, if the NCS spent N100 million naira in a particular year on informants who gave information about smuggling routes into the country including the location of warehouses where these contraband are stored, would that also be classified as economic waste? If the senate committee is not on a witchhunt following the altercation it had with the CGC a year ago, then why did they not set up a committee instead to probe economic waste in all the MDA’s instead of the Customs alone?

The connotative meaning of the word “Protocol” as used by both speakers means an accepted code of behaviour in an organization. We must also note that most times protocol in an organization is usually unwritten. Dino Melaye and other members of the senate committee have never been members of the NCS, so how did they know the protocol of the NCS as they allege? Are the members of the senate ad-hoc committee not also aware that it is against protocol not to take photographs with top management of an organization that you are visiting? The character of the individual chosen to head the senate ad-hoc committee is also in doubt as not only does he court controversy with his words, deeds and lifestyle but also because he seems to be more adept at waxing hit songs than making laws which he was elected to do. If we are to accept the senators obsession with protocol, are they not also aware that it is against the protocol of the Nigerian Army, for a senior officer like Ali, who served meritoriously in an illustrious career spanning decades and retired honourably, to put on the uniform of the para-military agency that he currently overseas?

The Customs boss is an achiever who last year alone raked in over a trillion naira into the federal coffers as revenue collected by the NCS-an achievement which is unprecedented in the annals of the organization and the nation. The Nigerian Senate should focus on it’s primary duty of making laws than playing the role of a meddlesome interloper in the NCS. Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) should not be obstructed from doing the good work he is currently undertaking in the agency due to the pettiness of our senators.

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