CUSTOMS VS SENATE: Epic Battle Continues As Ali Shuns Ethics Committee Again
By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
THE fight between the Senate and the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, appears to have continued unabated as the Customs Service yesterday, shunned the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions investigating the purchase of the vehicle with alleged fake National Assembly documents.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), said members of the committee waited for the Customs boss or his representative to no avail. According to him, a new date for the continuation of the investigative hearing may not be considered since the Customs boss was earlier invited for the hearing. Anyanwu had announced on Monday that the agency would appear yesterday.
Meanwhile, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Senator Hope Uzodinma, said, yesterday, that he had no hands in the 30 containers of rice seized by the NCS. Uzodinma, while reacting to some online publications alleging that he was mounting pressures on the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd) to release 30 containers of smuggled rice imported as yeast, explained that contrary to the reports, the letter sent to the Nigeria Customs Service was based on a petition by Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited to the committee that he chaired. Uzodinma, who noted that the committee decided to play its part, said: “Sometime around last November, the committee received a petition from Masters Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited Company. “Alleging that 30 containers of rice imported by them was seized by Nigerian Customs, even when they paid the necessary duties and necessary assessments were done by Nigerian Customs, the company said it needed our intervention. “Of course, you know as representatives of the people, that is why we are here, what I did was, the committee met and then sent out the petition to Customs Service asking them to react to the petition. “The Customs reacted through a letter sent to the Committee on November 25, 2016, confirming that the rice was imported and that the rice was seized because it was not declared according to the right classification. When I got that letter, to my surprise, the tone of the response was suggesting a kind of innuendo as if our letter was for them to release the rice.” “No. What we wrote was very clear, you can see the copy of the letter, it said make comment, react to this comment because every Nigerian citizen is entitled to fair hearing. And when we got their reply, we looked at the response from the Nigerian customs Service, signed by the comptroller General. “We immediately resolved and did a letter thanking him for his quick response to our enquiry and also reminding him that the sole intention in the matter was that justice should be done in line with their extant rules. The decision neither suggested that I have any link or any relationship with the importer nor did we suggest to the Nigerian Customs to wave any procedure or any internal mechanism by them as to the treatment of issues like this,” he said.