Buhari warns Customs CG Ali over disagreement with Senate
Strong indications emerged that the presidency may have been uncomfortable with the ‘ding dong’ affair between the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service Col. Hameed Ali and the Senate, the nation’s upper legislative chamber over the imposition of retrospective import duty payment on imported vehicles.
Meanwhile, the service has officially announced the suspension of the planned motor duty payment, citing what it called unnecessary tension generated as a result of misconception and misrepresentation of the policy.
This warning is coming on the heels of the failure of the Customs CG to appear before the Senate to explain the new policy on vehicles imported into the country, which has received wide condemnations from all segments of the society including the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC.
A source at the presidency hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Customs CG, Ali shortly after his arrival from his medical vacation from the United Kingdom, during which he reportedly warned Ali to thread softly in any issue that has to do with any of the arms of the National Assembly.
According to the source, the President was not happy with the handling of the issues of summons and wearing of uniforms by the Comptroller General, which he believes has a way of robbing off on the presidency.
“I cannot afford to have you soil the current cordial relationship between the executive, especially the presidency and the National Assembly, which we need seriously at this period in the life of this administration”, the President had warned sternly.
The President therefore urged the Comptroller General to urgently resolve all issues with the National Assembly, especially with the Senate, insisting that he cannot at this time afford to have another crisis with the legislative arm of the government.
It was gathered that it was the warning of the President that informed the decision of the Comptroller General to seek the support of the President’s Senior Special Advise on National Assembly, Mr. Eta Enang, which led to the meeting between the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the CG of Customs, Ali.
Investigations also showed that it was at the instance of Enang that Ali decided to write the second letter to the Senate, which he signed by himself, since the upper legislative chamber had earlier rejected the first letter signed by a junior officer informing the senators of his inability to make the summons, which the senators considered as an affront.
On the issue of wearing uniforms, Ali had advised the Senate to avail itself of the legal basis for it while he would seek legal advice on the matter so that he would be properly guided, an advice the senators also considered as an insult.
However in a statement issued today by the acting Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah on behalf of the Comptroller General, Ali, the service announced the suspension of the controversial policy.
The statement reads in part: “Following the unnecessary tension generated as a result of misconception and misrepresentation of the Nigeria Customs Service’s planned motor duty payment, the leadership of the National Assembly and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali 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”.
“While payment of duty on vehicles or indeed any dutiable imported item remains a civic responsibility of every patriotic Nigerian, NCS Management has directed that the exercise be put on hold while expressing readiness to engage the Senate Committee on further discussions to bring them on board to understand the importance of the exercise to national security and economy”, the statement also said.
The service had in a statement penultimate week under the new duty regime on imported vehicles given a one month grace period to importers and vehicle owners vehicles within the country whose customs duty has not been paid have been given between Monday March, 13 and Wednesday, April 12, 2017 to do so.
The statement reads in part: “Consequently, all motor dealers and private owners of such vehicles are advised to visit the nearest Customs Zonal Office to pay the appropriate Customs Duty on them”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all private car owners who are not sure of the authenticity of their vehicles customs documents can also approach the Zonal Offices to verify with a view to complying with the provision of the law”.
The Comptroller General therefore called on all persons in possession of such vehicles to take advantage of the grace period to pay appropriate duty on them.
It was also gathered that the service would embark on an aggressive anti-smuggling operation, which would focus attention on imported vehicles with a view to impounding them and possibly prosecute owners of such vehicles suspected to be smuggled.