Ali’s arrogant reply to the Senate

By Editor on 11/03/2017

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On Friday, March 9, 2017, Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hameed Ali, angrily riposted to the summons of the Nigerian Senate.

Palpably peeved by the further directive that he should do so in his official uniform, he licentiously and arrogantly dismissed the thought with the rather angry and offhanded quip: “I wasn’t appointed to wear uniform, but to perform.”

To see the Customs boss so audacious, arrogant and insolent, underscores the height of impunity, arguably, one of the biggest and most daunting problems Nigeria has been facing for decades now including the 17 years of its renewed democracy., condemns this brazen act of sheer insubordination that deals a heavy blow to the very foundation of our democracy. That a public official could display such a cavalier arrogance in his attitude to the Senate, not only the most powerful, but the bastion of institutional democracy, ought to highlight the fact that we have lost it in this country.

Nowhere else, in a civilised clime, can such a lowly-placed officer, practically sneer and dare the number one arm of government to that extent, except in Nigeria and some other low-democracies that operate the concept in name and not by its traditional ethos.

It can only happen in a clime, like Nigeria, where public officers, oscillate towards individual and personal forces, rather than concepts and institutions; where the law looks up, must take a cue and pander to the eye-contacts body languages and nuances of persons rather than the well-laid out letters and spirit of the law.

How dare Col. Ali talk back to the Senate in such a manner he did, if he did not feel he was protected, not by the law, but by a tendency, which assures his place no matter how wacky and imprudent his ideas and management of his office?


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The Nigerian Senate

Now, what is in issue? In what points to a proclivity towards brainwave, the dangerous offspring of impunity, and the rather medieval management practice to cast fear and impress by raw power, rather than the modern-day model of well-conceived and laid-out plans to deliver improved service, the Customs boss, announced last week that car owners in the country, would now have to prove that they paid the appropriate levies on their vehicles, not at the point of clearance, but right on the road.

How bizarre and primitive could it get? Imagine what would happen if this dangerous order is carried out. Anybody that has travelled on the nation’s highways, especially on the Lagos-Onitsha stretch, would testify that this idea is not new. Customs officials have been stopping vehicles and asking for papers and have actually impounded vehicles of some unlucky travellers, who either had no money to do the needful or elected to test the law. And from all indications, such unlucky Nigerians have sad stories to tell.

However, the new proposal suggests the anti-climax of this progressive degeneration. Apparently, having tested the idea on the highway without anybody stopping them, they now want to move further into the streets of Ojuelegba, Mararaba, Upper Iweka and Efurun to join the retinue of other agencies that have become the nightmare of road users to cause further havoc.  

In that case, it doesn’t matter, whether the driver of the vehicle is the third or fourth generation owner, who never imported it in the first place.

The outcome? Don’t even think about the logistics at the Customs offices and what this means in terms of more money in the already bribe-spilling hands, pockets and bank accounts of the officers at the desks and other payment points. Forget also that these are the same people that allowed these vehicles to enter the country in the first place for the same reason(s).

Therein lies the Senate intervention. The sheer madness and chaos of the primitive idea is what the Senate is trying to cure.

It is well-within its powers to so do, as an institution erected on the concept of not only law-making, but certifying the application of such laws to ensure that they meet the standards and essence of the well-established dictum that laws are meant for human beings and not human beings for law.

Naturally, anybody that has a little inkling into the mindset of the likes of Ali, will understand that his anger starts with his belief that no power apart from the President that appointed him could stop any of his actions and that he owes no one else an explanation. The question of the uniform, if anything, goes further to exacerbate this anger.

However, the Customs boss must be stopped. He must be reminded that the love to hug and clutch at some public display of grim, austere and Spartan dispositions and opening of red eyes, are not all one needs to command fear and respect from the people.

It is good for him to realise that he needs to perform, but such must aid the society and not detract from it.

Yes, his was an archaic era, where Customs men, invaded the markets and seized lace materials which they publicly burnt, even while directly stealing some, only for them, their wives and girlfriends to openly and gleefully appear in public, gaily-dressed in the same materials.        

Today, many Customs officials openly boast that they don’t touch their salaries and do not even remember the accounts in which they are paid.

The performance that is permitted must interrogate why and ensure a reversal.

Times have changed from the rule of brawn to the rule of brain. The Senate must be acutely serious in ensuring that he realises this.

Such impunity being displayed by Ali, hurts the polity more than the greatest heists. 




Posted on March, 11 2017

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