There was drama at the premises of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) when the senate ad hoc committee on economic waste paid a working visit to the Customs headquarters on Monday.
According to reports, the committee members comprising senators Dino Melaye (APC – Kogi West), Sam Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), Gilbert Nnaji (PDP, Enugu East), Hamman Isah Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) and Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun East), were humiliated by the customs boss, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd).
The committee members had arrived the customs headquarters to execute their oversight function and were received by senior officials of the service.
The senior officials reportedly led the senators to the conference room of the premises before they were joined by the Comptroller General, who was in his office as the senators arrived.
However, before he commenced his presentation, Melaye decried the unusual protocol at the agency, querying why the CG did not personally receive the senate team as was done in other agencies and parastatals.
Melaye said, “Before reading the prepared speech of the committee, let me make this small remarks on what we have just observed here in form of breach of protocols. Mr. CG, rather than meeting us here at the conference room by way of courtesy, you are supposed to have met us at the ground floor on arrival into the premises.
“That has 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, Prisons 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.”
If they had expected an apology from the CG, the senators got the opposite as he reportedly went ahead to blast them.
Ali told the senators that the protocol and etiquette at the customs should not be compared to the one at any other agency or parastatal.
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.
“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.”
The senators were said to have boycotted the group photograph session with the CG in protest of the treatment meted out to them.
The CG, who was believed to be annoyed with the senators’ attitude, walked out of the conference room through another door as the senators found their way out through the main door.
The senators were also prevented from leaving the premises as the Coaster bus they arrived in was blocked at the main entrance by the CG’s convoy.
While blaring loudly, the vehicles only made way after the CG came down from his office, entered one of them and the convoy zoomed off.