The 2017 crisis between the Senate and Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Hameed Ali, over his mode of dressing might still be simmering following the mild drama at the Nigeria Customs headquarters in Abuja yesterday.
Members of the senate ad hoc committee on economic waste and the Director General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hammed Ali, exchanged words over etiquette and protocol; theverbal battle between the Senate and the Customs boss was triggered by remarks made by Senator Dino Melaye, that the Customs C-G, 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.
The Senators arrived the Customs headquarters and were received by senior officials of the parastatal. The senior officers then led the senators to the conference room of the agency to wait for the DG to join them for their meeting.
However, Melaye duly noted that the protocol and practice had been that statutory bodies such as Customs, Immigration, Prisons, etc. over the years come down to welcome them, wondered why such a protocol was not accorded them by the incumbent Customs boss.
His words, “Mr C-G, rather than meeting us here at the conference room by way of courtesy, you were supposed to have met us at the ground floor on arrival into the premises.
“That had 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 etc., making us to wonder why it is 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”, he said.
Afterwards, Melaye read a prepared speech outlining how the committee would carry out its investigation on alleged economic waste in Customs Service.
However, to their uttermost shock, the Customs DG berated the visiting senators. He informed them that every agency has its own protocol and etiquettes and that Customs also has its own way of handling etiquette or protocol.
Hammed Ali said, “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 protocol for not coming down to welcome you since appropriate officers have been assigned to do so. Our protocol is our protocol and should be allowed to be.
“In fact, by way of etiquette, it is the committee that is supposed to come to my office first on arrival and not just coming straight to the conference room”, he stated.
“Let me state clear 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 railroaded in anyway.
“Personally, I took this job because of my commitment to serve this country selflessly having earlier done so in the military. So, nobody can tell me that I’m not a committed Nigerian.
“On your assignment you called economic waste, we shall cooperate with you to unearth whatever you want to unearth and effect any correction if there is any?”
In protest to the Custom boss’s stand, the senators after the investigation boycotted the group photograph session they were supposed to have with the Customs boss. The angry CG seeing the unresponsive attitude of the senators toward the call for a group photograph disgraced them by walking out of the meeting room through another door as the senators filed out through the main door.
Further humiliation was visited on the senators as they were prevented from leaving the premises of the Customs headquarters even when they had taken their seats in the Coater bus that brought them to the place, in preparation to leave.
While the bus conveying the senators was prepared to move, it was prevented from doing so as the aides of the CG had lined the convoy of their boss on the main road leading out of the premises, effectively blocking the senators from leaving, blaring their siren loudly, and prevented anyone from moving until the Customs CG came down, entered his vehicle and was driven out of the premises to the consternation of the embarrassed senators.
Senators who suffered the humiliation along with Melaye were Sam Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East); Gilbert Nnaji (PDP, Enugu East); Hamman Isah Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) and Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun East).
With this ugly development, the usual group photograph, considered a tradition was, however, jettisoned as the Senate Committee members refused having the photograph with the top management of Customs, a development that further got the committee members bruised by the Customs C-G who apparently out of annoyance, walked out of the visitors from the premises by using his convoy to block them from leaving the place before him.