The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hammeed Ali, has been declared unfit to hold public office by the Nigerian Senate because he refused to appear before the Senate in his Customs uniform as demanded by the Senate. Perhaps it’s about time I weighed in on it.
The Nigerian Senate had summoned the Comptroller-General over vehicle import duty. But Hammeed Ali who is a retired Colonel of the Nigerian Army is reported to have never won the customs uniform since he was appointed. While he goes back and forth with the Senate as to whether or not he should wear his uniform before it, one Mohammed Ibrahim has filed a lawsuit questioning the Senate’s insistence that the Customs boss wear his uniform; now Hammeed Ali has a quote from the court to excuse himself with: “maintain status quo”.
I believe this controversy stems from the appointment of a non-customs officer as the Comptroller-General. But I have to say it is gross disrespect for authority, abuse of judicial privilege and repugnant display of indiscipline and ineptitude. It’s like making a former Air Force officer the Inspector General of Police and he refuses to wear the Police uniform.
The Nigerian Customs Service is a uniformed organization like the Police, Air Force or The Civil Defense Corps. The purpose of uniformity in such organizations is, according to Wikipedia:
“to clearly distinguish combatants who are protected by the laws of war from other persons carrying weapons, who do not always enjoy such protection. Another purpose in historical times was to make it difficult for deserters to avoid detection.”
The Nigerian Customs Service officers are armed and as such, marked. Refusal to be in uniform could easily be interpreted as a war crime. To think that every other customs officer in the service is required to be in uniform by the authority whose head stubbornly refuses to wear is deeply unsettling. I don’t even have to say he’s not setting a good example. It’s blatant disregard for the uniform whose pride and honor many responsible men have sworn their lives to preserve.
Secondly, Hammeed Ali says he cannot wear the Customs uniform because he had already won the military uniform. But can he accept the appointment and enjoy the salary and perks that come with it? Your guess is as good as mine. There are precedents of other retired military officers who were appointed to serve in paramilitary organizations and wore both uniforms as appropriate. General Hananniya who retired from the Nigerian Army wore the Road Safety uniform daily as its Corps Marshal. It is not illegal or dishonorable.
Lastly, Hammeed Ali does not believe that the Nigerian Senate can make him appear before it in his uniform. Simply put, if the Senate can summon him, then it can make him wear whatever they please before it. The Nigerian Senate has just as much right, power and prerogative as the Supreme Court and the President of the Federation. But they don’t even have to make him wear his uniform. The position of the Comptroller-General is expected to come with a sense of duty and patriotism. The uniform is a glorified apparel of the service official which is used on very official occasions. I don’t see any occasion more official than a live-streamed session at the Upper Chambers.
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