A retired major-general and former governor of defunct Western state, David Jemibewon, has spoken on the ongoing face-off between the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Col. Hameed Ali and the Senate.
Ali, a retired colonel, has not been seen in Customs uniform since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, sparking conflict between him and senators who threatened serious consequences if he failed to do so by next week.
The Senate, before then, had passed a resolution demanding that the customs boss appear before it donning the service uniform, to explain issues bordering on duty payment for imported vehicles.
Jemibewon, also a former minister of police affairs, said the demand from the senators was unnecessary.
“We tend to create controversy where there ought not to be controversy. In a situation we are today, we should not be focusing on wearing a uniform,” Jemibewon said.
Nonetheless, he threw his support behind Ali, describing him as a fine military man who should not degrade himself with Customs uniform.
“It would be belittling the position of the uniform of a member of the Armed forces,” Jemibewon said.
The former military governor said he would have resigned if anyone had compelled him to wear police uniform as a minister.
“There was no way anybody could have compelled me to wear uniform. I would have resigned, even if the law said so, I would have resigned,” Jemibewon added
The comments came days after PREMIUM TIMES reported that a former Customs chief appointed outside the service in similar manner as Ali wore uniform.
“The moment I was appointed, I became a career Customs officer,” Bello Haliru told Premium Times last week. “I knew I must comply with all rules and regulations of the organisation I am leading and that included wearing a uniform.”
Similarly, Haladu Hananiya, a former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, wore uniform of the agency following his appointment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
This was despite the fact that Hananiya retired from the Nigerian Army as a major-general, years before his appointment to the FRSC.
When reminded about these past events, Jemibewon praised their humility, but stood his ground, still.
“That is very good and I am happy about that. He probably just wanted to identify with them,” Jemibewon said of Hananiya, adding that they joined the Army together on the same day.
Jemibewon also admitted that he doesn’t know what Customs rules and regulations stipulate, but repeated that an Army officer should be above a Customs’ uniform.
“The highest patriotic body in any country in the world is the Army,” Jemibewon said. “You don’t expect someone who has risen to that position in the Army to wear customs uniform.”