Vehicle owners who are anxious over duty payment enforcement should relax.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is reviewing the controversial policy, Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hameed Ali (retd) has said.
Col. Ali stated this in a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki which he personally submitted yesterday during an unscheduled visit to the Senate president.
He visited Saraki after the Senate plenary where he was criticised for replying the Senate’s letter of invitation through an assistant comptroller-general and asking for understanding not to appear today to enable him preside over a management meeting.
The senate president ruled after a debate that Col. Ali must appear today as directed and he should wear the Customs uniform.
The CG had told Television Continental (TVC) that he was not appointed to wear the Customs uniform and that he would not appear before the senate wearing it.
He also vigorously defended the policy which mandates Customs men to stop vehicles on highways to check for evidence of import duty payment. Many Nigerians are opposed to the policy which they believe is arbitrary and subject to abuse and corruption.
But in his personally signed letter, Col. Ali also said he was seeking legal consultation over whether or not to wear the uniform.
Sources said Col. Ali personally submitted the second letter to the Senate president and did not make any reference to the first letter which was read by the Clerk of the senate during plenary.
The second letter read: “May I respectfully refer to your letter dated 9 March and inform Your Excellency that the decision on payment of customs duties by vehicle owners who do not have them as prescribed by law is currently being reviewed.
“The goal of the review is to take a broad additional input from the stakeholders and the public. I will welcome the opportunity to avail the Senate of our findings.
“Regarding to wearing of uniform, I wish to advice that the senate avails itself of the legal basis of its decision to compel me to wear uniform.
“I am similarly taking legal advice on this issue so that both the senate and I will operate within the proper legal frame work.”
It was not clear last night whether the senate president gave him any assurance.
Col. Ali arrived at the National Assembly complex around 5.30 pm and moved straight to the office of Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan.
The embattled Customs boss was said to have been led to Saraki’s office by the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang and Senator Hope Uzodinma.
Senator Uzodinma (Imo West) is Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise.
The Customs CG wore his traditional white caftan with a cap to match. He was driven in a Peugeot 508 black car marked HQ 89CS.
The Custom CG was led to his car when he was leaving by Enang and Senator Kabiru Gaya.
He left the National Assembly complex around 6.49 pm after a private meeting with the Senate President.
A reliable source told our reporter that the Customs CG came to lobby for the Senate to soft pedal on his appearance.