OPINION

The Nigerian Senate and their Shadow Chasing Antics

 

By Aidokha Asekome

For the past two weeks, focus has been on the Nigerian senate for two reasons the confirmation of the acting Economic & Financial Crimes Commission EFCC chairman and the invitation of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hamid Ali (rtd) over a retroactive order on imported vehicles, where it was stated that vehicles whose custom papers were not in order were to be impounded regardless of when these vehicles were bought.

The thrust of this article is to analyze the aforementioned issues independent of the other and ultimately draw a conclusion.

Last week, the Nigerian senate failed to clear Magu, the acting chairman of the EFCC as substantive chairman. This was not the first time, Magu is facing the Nigerian senate.

The reason the senate gave, for this recent setback for Magu was on the account of a DSS report that questioned Magu’s integrity. In their words; “he failed the integrity test”.

The presidency had earlier given Magu a clean bill of health after what they referred to as ‘thorough’ investigation of the allegations levelled against him, after the first rejection when he appeared before the senate, this must have encouraged the presidency to represent him.

It was therefore curious that the senate rejected him the second time, particularly on the strength of two conflicting reports from the Directorate of State Security, DSS. It was convenient for them to adopt the version that indicted Magu in a desperate bid to achieve their aim of stifling Magu’s confirmation.

Femi Falana a foremost human rights lawyer (SAN) questioned the morality of Senators who are either been investigated or prosecuted by EFCC led Magu being part of the team saddled with the responsibility of confirming the EFCC Czar. It would have been clear that his confirmation as EFCC chairman was ‘dead on arrival’.

Looking at it from the failed integrity angle, is it not laughable that Magu is unfit to head the EFCC, while the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki who is been prosecuted for criminal related offences bordering on false assets declaration when he was governor of Kwara state, has the required integrity to chair a session where integrity is a major factor? Apart from the senate president, the following senators are either been prosecuted or investigated for one corruption related case or the other,

Senator Akpabio in court for N108 Billion Naira Fraud

Senator Sam Egwu in Court for embezzling N80 Billion Naira

Senator Joshua Dariyefor embezzling N1.2 Billion Naira

Senator Abdulahi Adamu in court for embezzling N15 Billion Naira

Senator Danjumah Goje, in court for embezzling N25 Billion Naira.

In saner climes, these group of people will not even  pass the integrity test to  be presented as party candidates, not to  talk  of been elected as senators, yet they have the effrontery to accuse Magu of lacking in integrity. Two reports with conflicting conclusions. Methinks, who will grill the griller?

Magu, who our senators claimed failed the integrity test has just been invited by two reputable anti-corruption organizations Transparency International (TI) and Global Witness to throw light on money laundering and asset recovery.

On Hamid Ali, the Custom Comptroller General’s uniform saga, my conclusion is that the Nigerian senate is continually losing any shred of their battered credibility and would latch on anything, that will give them an ounce of relevance, and they saw Hamid Ali as foothold to launch themselves back to reckoning. This I believe is backfiring very badly.

The reason Ali was invited to the senate has been relegated to the background and instead inanities are being projected as important.  The customs recently announced a retroactive policy on payment of duties.  This sent alarm bells across the country and there was a major outcry and rightly so, considering the way our security agencies respond to such orders

We all heaved a sigh of relief when the Senate, passed a resolution to invite the CG to explain to Nigerians why he was bringing up such an obnoxious policy. We are all happy that for the first time, our representatives are representing us in the real sense of it.

What did we know? We were rudely shocked when rather than the discourse centering on how negatively the retroactive policy on duties will impact on Nigerians, we were inundated with egoistic considerations of Ali appearing before the senate in custom uniform. That gave rise to new debate on whether Ali is compelled to wear the uniform or not.  Personally, I believe Ali is not compelled to wear the custom uniform.

In the custom act, (Sections 1-4 of the Nigerian customs service board act) a civilian can be seconded to be the custom boss. So why the hullabaloo over wearing of uniform?  It is either crassly ignorant or simply mischievous. So wearing the uniform is purely a matter of choice. If the senate feels otherwise, the burden is on them to cite the law that compels a custom CG TO wear uniform, are we asking for too much?

Ali is not a career custom officer, besides a court of competent jurisdiction had earlier adjudicated on the legal validity of his appointment as customs CG, the case was summarily dismissed on the grounds that the president has the prerogative to appoint a non-career custom officer to head the custom.

 

Wole Soyinka did not wear Federal Road Safety Commission FRSC, uniform, Fulani Kwajafa and Lanre Ipinmisho were DG of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, but never wore uniform.  Agunloye wore uniform as FRSC chairman and Roli George also wore the NDLEA uniform as a matter of choice and were not compelled to do so.

 

Insisting on Ali wearing custom uniform to appear before it while leaving the substance of the invitation is to say the least insensitive to the plight of Nigerian and an insult to our collective intelligence.

Does the senate have the right to ask Ali to appear before it? The answer is an emphatic yes. Can they compel him legally or morally to wear the uniform, in my opinion no. What the senators have succeeded in doing is simply driving themselves eyes open into a cul-de-sac.

News from a well known online media outfit, suggest the hounding of Ali might not be unconnected with a seized Range Rover vehicle allegedly belonging to the senate president due to improper documentation. The stance of the senators gives credence to this claim.

This could be likened to a situation where a doctor was called to attend to an emergency case, only to be turned back because he was not wearing a white coat and the patient at the risk of bleeding to death.

Meanwhile, two very important bills, one bordering on corruption and the PIB are with the senate unattended, yet they have the temerity to abdicate their legislative responsibility because of inanities.  While the flexing of muscles goes on, Nigerians are yoked with the obnoxious retroactive policy.

I rather have a mufti wearing CG like Hamid Ali whose focus is conscientiously carrying out his duties than having thieving uniformed CG like Abdulahi Dikko.

 

In conclusion, it is clear that corruption is fighting back on all fronts and we need to support the present administration in fighting this monster, with or without the senators.  This reminds me of a proverb my grandmother told me, that “if one cannot match his adversary strength for strength, he tries to cripple his favorite goat. That is the situation we are faced with.

It is time to start sensitizing our people, on the type of senators that should be elected in 2019, so that never again we would make the mistake of sending idiots to Abuja.

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