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Uneasy calm hits Aso Rock as Buhari, Finance Minister dragged to court

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President Muhammadu Buhari and Finance Minister have been dragged before a federal high court in Abuja over an alleged unlawful appointment of a retired Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali as Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Plaintiff in the case, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, an importer of goods and services based in Onitsha, Anambra State is asking the court to reverse Ali’s appointment as customs boss on the ground that it violated sections 5, 147, 148, 151 and 171 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
He is also praying the court to issue an order stopping the Minister of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from recognizing or further recognizing Col. Ali (rtd) as the Chief Executive Officer of the Customs.

Plaintiff further prayed the court to issue another order restraining Ali from holding himself out or further parading himself as the Comptroller General of the Customs.

In the suit with No FHC/ABJ/CS/813/2015, Okonkwo is asking the court to interpret sections 5, 147, 148, 151 an 171 of the 1999 constitution and the Custom and Excise Management Act Cap 45 Volume 4 and the scheme of service for customs service as they affect the appointment of Comptroller General for the Nigeria Customs Service.

Specifically, plaintiff seeks court’s declaration that the President, under the community reading of all known relevant laws, has no power to have appointed Col. Ali (rtd) as the Customs Chief in August, 2015.
He also seeks among others: “A declaration that the appointment of the 4th Defendant as the Comptroller General of the 3rd Defendant is not supported by any iota of law, and a clear violation of the Public Service Rules application to the 3rd Defendant.

*A declaration that there is no enabling law made by the National Assembly as the authority for the appointment of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as the new Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, his appointment by the President is unconstitutional, null and void.

*A declaration that the purported press release by Mr. Femi Adesina an aide of President Muhammadu Buhari is without due regard to Civil Service Rules, but a public relations affairs. The said Mr. Femi Adesina, is an imposter not being the Minister of Finance of the Federal Government.

*A declaration that an appointment to the office of Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service shall not be made except with the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, and among Deputy Comptroller Generals, Assistant Comptroller Generals and or Controllers, in the Nigerian Customs Service of the Federation.

*A declaration that the 4th Defendant a retired Colonel in the Nigerian Army is above sixty (60) years of age, a pensioner is not eligible for appointment into the Federal Civil Service regarding the Nigeria Customs Service”.

In his statement of claims, plaintiff claimed to be a major importer, tax payer and anti-corruption activist whose business transactions are being hindered by the alleged unlawful, illegal and un-constitutional appointment of the ex Army Officer into the office of the Customs Comptroller General.

He asserted that Col. Ali lacked the training and technical know-how on the statutory functions of the customs to which he was illegally and un-constitutionally appointed to head as the Comptroller General.

Besides, plaintiff claimed that the unlawful appointment by the President has destroyed the career of many high ranking well trained Customs officers and that the action has posed a great danger to professionalism in the Customs Service.

He also asserted that as at August 27, 2015 when the purported appointment was made, there was no Minister of Finance in place and as such, the President could not have acted on the recommendation of the Minister as stipulated by law.

He averred that his overseas business partners have indicated that they will no longer ship goods for him into the country because of the appointment of a non career and untrained person as Customs Boss so as not to be associated with illegality.

Besides, Plaintiff further explained that the World Customs Organization is contemplating a boycott of the Nigerian Ports and that he would be cut off from clearing and importation business unless the court intervenes in the alleged unlawful appointment.

He therefore asked the court to hold that the purported appointment of a retired army officer without any iota of training in any sector of the Nigeria Customs Service is illegal, un-constitutional and a clear violation of the Nigeria Customs Service Public Service Rules.

Meanwhile, the trial Judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba has adjourned the  matter till February 14, 2017 for hearing.

Other defendants in the suit are the Minister of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service and Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.

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