Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has been asked to void the appointment of retired army Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali as Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The plaintiff, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, an importer of goods and services based in Onitsha, Anambra State is asking the court to reverse Ali’s appointment on the grounds that it violated sections 5, 147, 148, 151 and 171 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He joined President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister for Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, as defendants.
Other defendants in the suit are the Minister of Finance, NCS and Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.
He is also praying the court to issue an order stopping the Minister of Finance and the NCS from recognising or further recognising the ex army chief as the chief executive of the custom.
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 NCS.
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.
Plaintiff also seeks among others: A declaration that the appointment Ali as the CG of the customs is not supported by any iota of law, and a clear violation of the Public Service Rules.
*A declaration that there is no enabling law made by the National Assembly as the authority for the appointment of Ali as the new CG, NCS, 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.
He 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 CG of the NCS 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 NCS.
*A declaration that Ali, 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 NCS.
In his statement of claim, 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 chief into the office of the customs CG.
Plaintiff asserted that 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 CG.
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.
Plaintiff insisted that Ali by operations of the Public Rules cannot be appointed into the service of the customs without due compliance with the said rule, having not being a public officer.
He averred that his overseas business partners have indicated that they would 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, the plaintiff further explained that the World Customs Organisation is contemplating 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 NCS is illegal, un-constitutional and a clear violation of the NCS Public Service Rules.
Meanwhile the matter has been adjourned to February 14 for hearing by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba.