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What’s all the fuss over Customs uniform?

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For the past few months one thing has virtually dominated the airways, headlines, various discussions and gobbled up space on social media – the refusal of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (rtd) to wear the uniform reflecting his position.

And of course like any discuss there are various arguments being put forward for and against the position of the retired colonel of the Nigerian Army towards wearing his uniform.

For instance, writing on the issue in his weekly column for Sunday Telegraph last Sunday, legal luminary Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) argued in his piece titled: “Hameed Ali: Raising the bar of Impunity” that the Col. Ali was wrong not to wear the uniform of his office.

“The present hubbub and brouhaha generated by him in his defiant refusal to wear Customs uniform to the Senate is as pompous, cocky, narcistic, as it is vainglorious.

What is in a uniform? Oh, EVERYTHING! By simple definition, “uniform” is a particular set of clothes that has to be worn by the members of the same organisation or group of people, e.g.: military/school uniform, a nurse’s uniform.

“Merriam-Webster defines uniform as a “dress of a distinctive design or fashion worn by members of a particular group and serving as a means of identification; broadly: distinctive or characteristic clothing”.

“Virtually every professional wears uniform: Lawyers, judges, Doctors, Engineers, Nurses, Capital Market operators, Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Customs, Fire Service, Civil Defence, FRSC, Boys Scouts, Girls Guild, Knights, Priests, Reverend Sisters, Bishops, Pope, Imams, Traditional Rulers, School children, Graduands; just name it.”

Chief Ozekhome goes on to cite himself as an example of how the allure of belonging to a group, which had a uniform, made him give up one year in university. Hear him: “I lost one full year at the then University of Ife (now OAU), to enable me read law, as I had to downgrade myself from 300 level (English Department), to 200 level (Law).

“The greatest attractions I had for this self-immolation were simply two: the first was the uniform (wig, gown, bib and collar…” He then goes on to state the clincher why Col. Ali’s position is actually an infraction of the law.

“The law governing Nigerian Customs is the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA), Cap 45, LFN, 2004. CEMA is silent as to whether it is mandatory for the Comptroller General of Custom (CGC) to wear uniform.

“However, the Customs and Excise Preventive Service Regulations made pursuant to CEMA make specific reference to uniform. Regulation 31 provides that clothing and equipment shall be of such pattern and worn in such manner as the Board shall determine.

“Thus, it makes reference to uniform to be worn by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service. Interestingly, CEMA defines ‘officer’ to mean: “any person employed in the Nigerian Customs Service, or for the time being performing duties in relation to customs or excise”.

“Under Sections 4 and 5 of the Act, the power to act on behalf of and subject to the government of the federation in all Customs matters, is vested in the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service, of which the CGC is Vice Chairman, while the Minister of Finance, is Chairman.

“Since the said Regulation 31 provides that: “clothing shall be of such pattern and worn by officers as the Board shall determine”, it follows, as the night the day, that by a community reading of the Act and the Regulations, clearly show that the CGC is and remains an “officer” of the Service. “He must therefore comply with the provisions of both the Act and the Regulations, by wearing of uniform.

“Similarly, Section 8 of the Act provides that for the purpose of carrying out or enforcing the provisions of the Customs and Excise Laws, all officers shall have the same powers, authorities and privileges as are given by law to Police officers. Everyone knows that part of the paraphernalia of the “powers, authorities and privileges”, of Police officers is wearing official uniform.

Why must Ali be an exemption?” Well-articulated by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria! In the early days of the ruckus over his refusal to wear his Customs’ uniform, Col. Ali had argued that as a senior army officer it was wrong for him to be seen in the uniform of another service.

However, even this argument has been torpedoed with clear example of officers, even more senior than him donning the uniform of the new position they found themselves in. For instance, retired Major-General Haladu Hananiya, Hameed Ali’s superior, was Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). He wore his uniform throughout his service with pride and dignity.

Colonel Emeka Okoro, same rank with Ali, upon retirement from the military, was appointed the Sergeant-at-Arms of the NASS. He proudly wore the Sergeant-at- Arms uniform. Retired Major Argungu was appointed the FCT Head of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and he gallantly wore VIO uniform. Dr John Ade Abolurin, erstwhile Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) adorned the Corps uniform with élan.

In seeking to find out if actually there existed a law (either written or otherwise) against an army officer being seen in the uniform of another service, a serving Major- General I spoke to insisted that there was none to the best of his knowledge.

“Honestly, I don’t know of any such law in the military that prevents such,” he told me. He then pointed out that perhaps the unwritten creed in which army personnel often see themselves as being above all other military and para-military organisations could be the reason.

“You do know that we (army personnel) believe that we are the top dogs and so ego may be the reason why he (Ali) cannot bring himself to be seen in another uniform other than the army’s,” he explained.

However, whatever is the reason, late musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti summed it up in a witty but pungent manner in his 1974 hit: “Alagbon Close” when he said:

“Uniform na cloth na tailor dey so am, nothing special about uniform!” It may appear flippant but at the end of the day uniforms are actually sown by tailors and thus my take is that wearing one should not be a big issue!

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Naira as trade currency

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Unexpectedly the cheering news filtered in as the United Kingdom announced its preparedness to include the Naira as one of three currencies in West Africa to be accepted for trade transactions by the British Government. Specifically, this information was released by no other than Paul Arkwright, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria.

He explained that the UK Export Finance (UKEF) will now be able to provide loan guarantees through local banks in Naira to support Nigerian businesses procuring goods and services from the UK as a practical measure to underwrite increased business between the two countries. This scheme we were told would be restricted to dealings with UK businesses that have given their consent to accept payment in Naira effectively underwriting the exchange risks inherent in such transactions.

The maximum funding by way of guarantee that could be attracted under the scheme is 85% of project costs and the only condition precedent is that the transaction would have a minimum 20% British content. It was also indicated that a sum of 750 million Pounds Sterling had been earmarked by UKEF for the take-off of the scheme. And opinion has been canvassed that with guaranteed long tenure credits at low interest rates for quality British products and services makes this proposition very competitive and attractive.

As should be expected even before this measure had been fully digested and understood, compatriots had as has been the case with us adorned their full garment of scepticism. I was involved in arguments on two vibrant WhatsApp platforms on the full implications of this development for the Nigerian economy. And was privileged to have granted online interview to Radio Nigeria on the implications of this development for the Nigerian economy which was carried on their network service.

There has been fears expressed to the effect that this liberalization would worsen the trade imbalance between Nigeria and Britain which had traditionally been in favour of Britain, to questions raised regarding how the accumulated trade balances in Naira which it was feared could be humongous would be settled by the Central Bank in which case if we are not careful we might have on our hands a cure worse than the disease; to issues regarding logically how the rate of exchange to be adopted for the determination of the Naira equivalent of the deals would be determined to the rate of interest to be charged on the transactions; to even what impact this development or rather to what extent it would impact the exchange rate of the Naira.

No doubt we should suspend wild celebrations until the full details of the proposed scheme are made known as counselled by the saying that the enemy is often in the details. But my well-considered position is that this development is wholesome and salutary for the Nigerian economy as it at once commences the process of conferring on the Naira the status of a tradable currency with the many advantages pertaining thereto. Most certainly this development if nothing else should at least reduce the dollar demand pressure on the economy thereby firming up the Naira exchange rate.

And as has been explained above some of the more than five hundred British companies that do business in Nigeria have accepted to absorb the exchange risks. And therefore any involvement of the Central Bank in this matter should be limited to ensuring that extant guidelines on such business relationships were not observed in the breach.

There will be no prize for guessing what precipitated this welcome change in policy. Britain following the reality of Brexit which denies the country the advantages of a large common market with its associated benefits particularly as it relates to the economy of scale has been forced to think outside the box if the growth of its economy is not going to be undermined with the negative potential of such a development for the quality of life of the average British.

And as a result of this thinking the need to boost bilateral trade relations particularly with countries with large markets and shared historic ties became inevitable hence this development which in our opinion as already explained is considered most welcome and salutary.

What this development portends for Nigerian businesses is that with a viable business proposal sourcing funding from their banks for doing business with British companies is made so much easier as the guarantee is in place and similarly exchange rate risks will no longer pose an inhibiting constraint. Why should Nigeria celebrate this development? The reality of the Nigerian economy is that it is still overly dependent on the external sector despite all the several efforts and attempts made over a fairly long period now notably commencing from the Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme of 1986.

The fact remains that all the policy measures needed for the attainment of the diversification of the Nigerian economy were well documented under this programme. But what has been the bull in the China shop with regard to inability to register commensurate progress has been the country’s poor record when it comes to implementing adopted policies. And the economy on the other hand being mono cultural; dependent on the oil sector for upwards of 85% of foreign exchange income clearly highlights the precariousness and vulnerability of the economy. Most certainly some progress has been recorded by this administration to blunt the sharp thrust of this situation on the economic jugular of the economy.

Some of the recent landmark developments that have contributed considerably to the reduction of the vulnerabilities of the Nigerian economy worth celebrating would most certainly include the effectiveness of the Investor, Exporters (I&E) window for the autonomous inflow of foreign exchange into the economy.

The success in this regard in effect means that we do not have to spend only what dollars we have directly earned. There are also developments with the agricultural sector where the country is targeting self-sufficiency in the not too distant future in rice production and other deliverables.

And with the success recorded under the fiscal regime with the rapid and massive augmentation of tax revenue which is being positively impacted by the VAIDS scheme currently under intense publicity and the unprecedented boost in fiscal flows through more focused, aggressive, transparent returns to the treasury by most revenue collection agencies of government, we must admit in all honesty that we have just commenced witnessing the glimmering of the return of a robust economy.

The government has projected a growth rate of 3.5% for the Nigerian economy in 2018 and all the other relevant agencies have followed suit with various levels of positive GDP growth predictions during the year. But in spite of such major strides being recorded, the acceptance of Naira as a trading currency by the British Government with its potential ripple effect, is yet another success milestone which we are convinced that as the details are being finalized would most certainly give a fillip to the growth prospects of the Nigerian economy.

 

•Dr. Chizea is a financial expert.

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The futile attempt by rented miscreants to dance on the sacred grave of Gani Fawehinmi (4)

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INTRODUCTION

Last week, I could not discuss much on the above subject because of some other pressing national issues I dealt with. Today, I shall continue on how Gani fought tyranny and dictatorship across the length and breadth of Nigeria, using the law as an instrument of social engineering. He defended all, whether rich or poor, “corrupt” or “clean”, mighty or low, private persons or public servants. I will not allow the reprobates and malefactors to rewrite history.

 

I EDUCATED THE AUDIENCE ON WHO GANI WAS

 

I recalled to the audience that in fighting tyranny and oppression, Gani in 1984 (during General Muhammadu Buhari’s military junta), defied the NBA (for which he was initially blacklisted and his name entered in the roll of dishonor by the NBA, which later recanted), Consequently, Gani led me and others to defend Colonel Peter Obasa, Chief Kila, Dikko, Udoka, etc, who were accused of corruption and misappropriation of public funds. More on this later. I told the audience how I later founded the Universal Defenders of Democracy (UDD), which was launched by Justice (Dr) Akinola Aguda, in April, 1992. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, who later became Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, was my Director of Publicity.

 

It was this platform I used in securing court injunction against the detention of the “Kuje 5” (Gani, Beko Ransome Kuti, Falana, Baba Omojola and Segun Maiyegun). I also used UDD to stop the execution of General Zamani Lekwot, who had been sentenced to death by a special Military Tribunal set up under the IBB military junta, over the Zagon Kataf crisis.

I never knew General Lekwot. I met him for the first time at the 2014 National Conference where we were both delegates. I was later to co-found the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), with Chief Gani Fawehinmi and other leading lights in the pro-democracy movement. Gani was unanimously elected the National Chairman of JACM. I was elected the National Vice Chairman, Publicity and Publications. It was this platform that we used to finally push out the military junta in 1999. It was tough. But, we did it.

 

At the risk of our youthful lives. Where were these blackmailers when we were fighting for the heart and soul of the Nigerian nation?

 

DID GANI EVER DEFEND PERSONS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION?

The answer is a loud yes.

Gani defended many people who were accused of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, etc. I will show these anon.

 

That did not mean that he was defending corruption. Gani had, during his life time, exhibited his admirable legal wits during numerous encounters in the courts with the best lawyers in Nigeria.

One of such epochal cases in which he appeared is recorded as Gani Fawehinmi vs NBA (1). In this case, Fawehinmi had dragged the NBA to court in 1984 over the Association’s decision, directing lawyers to boycott the Special Military Tribunals (SMT), established by the General Buhari military regime.

To the Ondo-born late activist per excellence, he had a constitutional right and duty to defend any client who hired his services.

As a result, he openly shunned the NBA’s order at a press conference and appeared for his client, Col. Peter Obasa (rtd), a former DG, NYSC, and his Deputy, Chief Kila, then standing trial before the Special Military Tribunal set up by General Muhammadu Buhari in 1984.

 

Distinctly defiant, Gani subsequently instituted an action against the NBA, the General Council of the Bar (GCB) and three Elders of the Bar, Chief F.R.A Williams, Mr. Kehinde Sofola and Chief E.A Molajo, all of blessed memory, over his blacklisting for daring to appear before the military tribunals to defend so called corrupt clients.

 

(To be continued next week).

 

NOW THIS

SO, EVEN SNAKES LOVE MONEY?

Nigeria is such a comical country. South Africa has been busy teaching the world democracy, by bowing to the superior power of a political party, ANC (African National Congress), to force out its sitting president,

 

Jacob Zuma, which it replaced with his Deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa. The same thing had happened in 2008 when the ANC replaced President Thambo Mbeki with his then Vice president, Zuma, after forcing him out. Both cases were anchored on proven cases of corruption; not on simulated and orchestrated media corruption trials. Fastrack to my dear country, Nigeria.

Nigerians are daily regaled with bizarre and eerie tales from Arabian nights (that will torpedo Ali Baba and the 40 thieves). One of such quirky and freakish fictions is the N36 Million snake-swallowing anecdote the country was entertained with last week.

A sales clerk at the JAMB office in Makurdi, by name Philomina Chieshe, had, during a team of auditors’ visit, told a bewildered nation that she could not account for N36 million made in previous years before the abolition of the scratch card system of paying money.

 

She claimed she was one of the four sales clerks attached to JAMB office, Makurdi, whose responsibility was to sell scratch cards to candidates and not to handle revenue. Handling of revenue was the responsibility of one Joan Asen, she narrated. Hear more of her weird story: “It was a mystery to me too. I have been saving the money in the bank, but I found it difficult to account for it.

 

So I started saving it in a vault in the office. But each time I open the vault, I will find nothing. I became worried and surprised how the millions of naira could be disappearing from the vault.

“I began to interrogate everybody in the house and office, and no one could agree on what might have happened to the money. I continued to press until my housemaid confessed. She said that the money disappeared “spiritually”. She said that a “mysterious snake” sneaked into the house and swallowed the money in the vault.” A  snake swallowing money?

 

Haba! We have already heard of the outlandish story of rats taking over the seat of power for some months. Very soon, as 2019 approaches, we may hear odd and strange fabrications about lizards swallowing up ballot papers; of domestic fouls swallowing up ballot boxes; of goats swallowing up card readers! I hope we will not wake up one day to hear of wall geckos swallowing up our foreign reserves!! Nigeria, we hail thee!

 

OF ZUMA, STATUES AND MORALS

Some Nigerians worship mediocrity, clownery and buffoonery.

Jacob Zuma was so corrupt and so hated by his country men and women whom he had governed for nine years that the South Africans forced him to resign prematurely before the end of his second term.

 

But, in Nigeria here, Zuma has a statue erected in the heart of Owerri, Imo State capital, standing in all its splendor and imperioriousness, for his “exemplary leadership and contribution to society”. Can’t our leaders see that we are fast becoming the butt of jokes, mockery, skylarking, jesting, obloquy and derision across Africa?

 

AND THIS

AND THE ORGY OF MASSACRE GOES ON ACROSS NIGERIA

The unrestrained orgy of violence and unprovoked cold blooded slaughter goes on cross Nigeria, as 41 people were brutally massacred on Valentine’s Day under gory and horrendous circumstances.

This heartless blood – letting by organized bandits happened in the sleepy agrarian village of Birane, in Zurmi LGA of Zamfara State. Only last November, gunmen had invaded and torched dozens of houses in Shinkafi LGA of the same Zamfara State, killing 24 people in the process.

Section 14 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Nigerians are asking if we still have real governance in place, or if all we do now is politicks and politicking.

We are screaming 2019 when we are in a deep security quagmire and economic cesspool. All we now hear and read of everyday is death, killings, arson, kidnapping, invasion, slaughtering. Gosh!

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Defender of the liberty that I idolize, myself more free than anyone, in coming as a friend to offer my services to this intriguing republic, I bring to it only my frankness and my goodwill; no ambition, no self-interest; in working for my glory, I work for their happiness”. (Marquis de Lafayette).

 

LAST LINE

Hope Nigerians are reading, digesting and awaiting the next exploring discourse of Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, Ph.D, LL.D?

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

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Columnists

Do not tell your husband, “I told you”

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A few months back, a lady walked into my office for counseling.

 

She was very angry with her husband. She had earlier advised him to take to a given line of business but he disregarded her advice. What the husband made up his mind to do did not succeed and this brought financial problems to the family.

 

Many times whenever these financial problems reared their heads, the woman will tell the husband“I told you but you will not listen to me. Can’t you see the result now?” I advised the woman never to tell her husband “I told you”. After explaining to her, she left my office with a smile determined to be an encourager to her husband and not to be reminding him of his failures.

 

One of the worst moments of any responsible man is when he loses his job and is unable to cater for his family. A job loss may reduce the self-esteem of a husband. When he is unable to provide for the family he may feel “less manly”. At this critical point, you the wife should not begin to insult and castigate him

 

Don’t say “I told you”. As a wife, one of the major roles given to you by God is to be a burden sharer and a helper in times of challenges. At moments like these, you are to speak encouraging words to your husband. Make him feel like the man he wants to be.

Do not remind him of how you warned and advised him but he did not listen to you. All these are highly immaterial now. What the man needs now is an understanding wife that will inspire him. Empathetic, sympathetic and pragmatically positive wives who will help make her husband walk again.

 

A wife who will speak comforting words and remind him of what God can use him to do.

 

A wife who will tell her husband that there is no successful man on earth who has never failed before. A wife who will allow the spiritual power in Proverbs 24:16 to penetrate her husband’s spirit, soul and body. Proverbs 24:16 says ”For a just man falls seven times and rises up again…”

 

I remember many years ago before I came into full time ministry, I had a business which I did alongside my pastoral work. I was to get a very big supply business the profit of which we planned to use to buy a house in a highbrow area of the city. But the people wanted me to offer them a bribe which I refused and at that time Carol and I were just trying to survive financially.

 

When the Monday 12 noon deadline to offer the bribe expired, and I was denied the contract, I informed Carol about the loss. What she said was “darling don’t worry, this is not one of the ways God intends to make us rich”.

I almost lost faith in Nigeria during those early years of our marriage but the encouraging words of Carol made me to keep fighting on to become successful in a very corrupt environment.

Hello ladies, do not tell your husband’s again that “I told you”. Instead, heal your pains and encourage him to move on. Love you.

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