Ali’s appointment as Customs boss stirs controversy
THREE Lagos-based — lawyers, Femi Falana, Ebun Adegboruwa and Aham Njoku, on Tuesday differed on the propriety, or otherwise, of President Mohammadu Buhari’s recent appointment of Hameed Ali, a retired colonel, as the comptroller-general (CG) of Nigeria Customs Service.
While Adegboruwa and Njoku declared the action as illegal and abuse of due process for not conforming with the relevant section of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, Falana said the gazette does not have the force of law and section 5 of the 1999 constitution empowers the president to make the appointment from outside the service.
According to section 3.11:1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 24 Vol. 89 of 25th March 2002, the choice of the comptroller-general of customs shall be by “appointment of a suitable Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs (General Duty)”. This guideline is on page 226 of the gazette — which is an administrative publication of established procedures, orders and regulations.
To Njoku, therefore, the non-adherence of due process in the appointment of Hameed Ali, smacks of arbitrariness on the part of president Buhari.
According to him, the government of President Buhari must adhere to due process and must not do anything that promotes arbitrariness.
He therefore called on President Buhari to resist the temptations of acting illegal in discharge of his duties.
But Falana argued that since the gazette does not have the force of law and section 5 of the 1999 constitution empowers the President to make the appointment from outside the service, the President has not contravened any law on the appointment.
He said: “For statutory bodies that the law does not clearly define how appointments are made, the president is fully protected by the 1999 constitution on how he can make the appointments.
According to him, the gazette in question is “a scheme of service” which regulates the internal procedures of promotion within the customs structure. “What that gazette is saying in effect is that you cannot pick any customs officer below the rank of deputy comptroller-general as the CG. It is an internal procedure.
Ali was picked from the outside so the rule does not apply to him. The president is protected by section 5(1)(a) of the constitution which allows him to appoint anybody to help him exercise his executive powers,” he said. The section says: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation shall be vested in the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation.”