Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said the Senate has no lawful authority to invite the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali, to justify the agency’s move to compel all vehicle owners in the country to pay appropriate duties on their imported vehicles.
In a write-up on Sunday, Falana argued that the invitation extended to Ali by the Senate was unconstitutional.
“The Senate lacks the vires to summon the CGC on policy matters.
“Indeed the oversight power of either House of the National Assembly is not at large but limited by section 88 (2) of the Constitution,” Falana argued.
He cited the Court of Appeal decision in the case of El-rufai vs House of Representatives, where the court, relying on the case of Senate of the National Assembly vs Tony Momoh, held that, “No power exists under the section for general investigation not for personal aggrandisement of the House.”
“In the instant case, the Senate is not conducting an investigation but challenging the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service on payment of duties.
“With respect, the summons served on the CGC is illegal and unconstitutional as it cannot be justified under section 88(2) of the Constitution,” Falana contended.
He also faulted the insistence of the Senate that Ali must appear before it dressed in the Customs uniform.
“Neither the Constitution not the Rules of Procedure of the Senate has conferred on it the power to compel the CGC to wear customs union when he is not a serving customs officer.
“Indeed, the directive is a reckless usurpation of the powers of the board which is the only competent body to decide on the wearing of uniform by customs officer,” Falana said.
He recalled a recent judgment where the court, in a suit challenging Ali’s appointment, held that Ali is not a customs officer.
“Col. Ali cannot be made to wear any uniform by the Senate,” Falana said.
He said if the Senate wanted to challenge the Customs policy on payment of exercise duties it should invite the Ministry of Finance and not the CGC.
“I should not be misunderstood as saying that the Senate deserves to be treated with disdain.
“All I am saying is that the Senate should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the Constitution.
“Thus, instead of playing into the hands of the CGC by invoking the provision of section 88 of the Constitution, the Senate could have summoned the Minister of Finance to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision.
That would have been in consonance with section 67 (2) of the Constitution which has imposed a duty on every minister to attend either House of the National Assembly to explain ‘the conduct of his ministry, and in particular when the affairs of the ministry are under discussion.’”