Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said the Senate has no authority to invite the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), 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 (power) 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 the 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 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 uniform 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 was 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.”