Custom uniform saga and the Nigerian Senate
*Does the hood make the monk?
From Babatunde Ogala
I wish to refer all those who have been commenting on the Custom Uniform debate with the Nigerian Senate to take time out to read Sections 1-4 of the Nigerian Customs Service Board Act which creates the Nigerian Customs Service Board. The constitution thereof as well as the Customs and Excise Management Act will be appreciated than the time wasting exercise of the Nigerian Senate that has unfortunately distracted itself from the main substance of the issue which is the retroactive policy on payment of duties on vehicles and has concentrated on a time wasting, pedestrian and non issue of wearing uniforms by the Comptroller General.
I am still waiting for anyone including the Senate to refer us to any general policy guidelines made by the Nigerian Customs Service Board that prescribes that the CG must wear uniforms.
In fact by the provisions of Section 2 of the Act, anybody can be appointed as CG including a person seconded from any arm of the Civil Service. It doesn’t have to be a career officer.
And do our Senators and all know that the duties of the Board under the Customs and Excise Act are in two parts? Do they know what the Excise duties entail?
Do they know that border and port control and duties assessment and collection are only an integral part of the functions of the service? Do they know that it also has inspectorate responsibilities over factories and industrial complexes?
Do they know it has powers over some elements of aviation with powers to even impound ships and aircrafts? Do they know that it also must grant licences for the production of spirits and beers?
Do they know that no brewery or distillery can manufacture beer or spirits in Nigeria without licence from the Board of Customs? Are they aware that it also has powers to make regulations regulating the manufacture of tobacco?
And above all, about half of its work force doesn’t even wear uniforms especially those on Excise duties. The CG is therefore not an enforcement officer alone, but also a regulator and licencing body. He is not obliged by law to wear uniform.
Please let us support our assertions with the law setting up the Customs and Excise and its functions. Which law prescribes that anybody in the Customs should wear uniforms. As Comptroller General, he is the Vice Chairman of the Board and Finance Minister is the Chairman. Would she also wear uniform?
He is not obliged to wear uniform because his schedule of duties does not require him to so do. Neither can he be compelled to do so. The Senate is misdirected in this case. Instead of facing the real issue of the retroactive directive on duty payment for imported cars, they are here busy chasing inanities and leaving the substance. They will come out bruised.
Dr Olu Agunloye was Corp Marshal of FRSC, he didn’t wear uniform to work. Roli Bode George as DG of NDLEA and her Executive Chairman don’t wear uniform to work. She adorned it only occasionally out of choice and not because she was compelled or obliged to so do and for ceremonials.
Lanre Ipinmisho was DG of NDLEA and didn’t wear uniform. Retired AIG Oyakhilome was DG of NDLEA and didn’t wear uniform. Coming to Lagos, Retired Commissioner of Police Arebamen and Odubela were heads of LASTMA and AIG Chris Olakpe currently heads the agency.
None of them wore or wears uniform because the law didn’t make it obligatory for them to wear it. General Ishaya Bamaiyi was Chairman of NDLEA, he didn’t wear their uniform either. Neither did AIG Fulani Kwajafa. The current DG too doesn’t wear any uniform.
The pioneer Director of Customs, Mr Diyan and his predecessor didn’t wear uniform too. It was Dr Bello who was a Veterinary Surgeon before his appointment as DG who first wore the uniform. He was never in the Customs before his appointment.
They were all political appointees to the offices. So why the hullabaloo about a non issue as pedestrian by the Senate. The Senate promulgated the laws under which he operates, why is it so difficult for them to invoke their own law setting up the Customs to deal with the issue rather than all the playing to the gallery as we have so far seen.
I have not heard any of the throats bursting senators make any reference to any law or guidelines that the DG of Customs has flouted by his refusal to wear uniform. I believe that is not too much for them to refer themselves and the citizens to the relevant laws or regulations. They should invoke the law rather than distracting the Customs from doing its work.
Enough of the comedy.
Barrister Ogala is a monarch and a trained legal practitioner.