Customs boss, Ali, in supremacy war with Finance Minister, Adeosun

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali(rtd.) is currently locked in a battle of supremacy with the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.

By the virtue of the provisions of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) No. 55 of 1958 as amended in 2003, the minister of finance, who is the chairman of the Customs board, supervises the Customs while the CG takes directives from the minister.

However, since the current CG assumed office, he has shown utter disregard and disdain for the Finance Minister, Adeosun, who is his boss.

It would be recalled that Ali, before the appointment of the ministers, had bragged that he would not take orders from the minister as he deals directly with the President.

Using his closeness with Mr President, Ali has carried out series of infractions on the subsisting statues of Customs, which is CEMA, as he unilaterally made and carried out major policy statements without recourse to the minister.

The first infraction the retired Army Colonel committed was the unilateral retirement of all the five Deputy-Comptrollers of Customs, as well as some Deputy Comptroller- General without the approval of the minister.

He also appointed officers in acting capacity as a replacement for those sacked without referring to the minister.

According to CEMA provisions, the customs CG cannot promote or retire any officer from the rank of Assistant Comptroller- General without referring to the Customs Board, which is chaired by the minister, an infraction Ali committed with glee.

It would be recalled also that Ali made a policy statement reversing the ban on rice importation through the borders; a policy statement that was made by the Federal Government through the former minister of finance under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration, meant to checkmate the high level of smuggling of the product into Nigeria.

It took the intervention of the National Assembly whose members called the CG to order and chastised him on the need to exercise restraint in the discharge of his duties.

At the recent defence of the Customs budget at the National Assembly, Ali openly disagreed with Adeosun on some matters concerning Customs. He reportedly told the minister that he was not answerable to her, but the President.

Maritime commentators expressed worry at the blatant breach of protocol by the Comptroller- General who they accused of using his closeness to the President to desecrate the office of the Minister of Finance.

They warned that if he was not called to order, the seed of discord which this supremacy war was likely to engender may affect the general well- being of the service.

“The President should call Ali to order. He should not bring that mammillary mentality into democracy. After all, the President whose name he was dropping has confessed that he is a convert democrat.

“Ali too should shed his toga of arrogance and don the garment of humility, constitutionality, due process and the Rule of Law, which are the tenets of democracy. His current air of arrogance and disrespect to the office of the Minister is not in tandem with the change that the President professes,’’ a stakeholder said.

Another respondent described the perceived strict nature of the CG as a mere ground-standing meant to pull wool over the eyes of people.

‘’I even learnt that he has started to enjoy the opulence and easy life for which he crucified his predecessor as he has moved into the official residence of the former CG,’’ said another source.

Sources close to the Ministry of Finance said that the current posture of the CG was meant to intimidate the minister and side-line her from the scheme of things.