The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Thursday inaugurated two seagoing specialized security gunboats acquired in 2015 by the immediate past Comptroller-General, Abdullahi Inde Dikko, to boost Nigeria’s anti-smuggling capacity on waters.
The boats were acquired towards the end of Dikko’s administration.
The present Col. Hameed Ali (retd) led leadership, on assumption of office in 2015 abandoned the patrol boats, which procurement was approved on May 9, 2012 by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Business and Maritime West Africa learnt that the patrol boats, which wasted away for years at the Marina Jetty in Lagos were acquired at over N3billion.
It was also gathered that the failure of the service to utilize these boats led to increase in the activities of smugglers along the waterways. According to sources, there have been increased smuggling and other criminal activities within the nation’s inland waters and creeks, as the Marine Commands of the service has been rendered ineffective due to the absence of patrol boats and other operational platforms.
It was also reported that the service spends whopping amount of money annually in maintaining the two patrol boats, the ‘Customs’ Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’, as it needs to run the engines as well as the generating sets and other communication equipment on board the boats which were anchored at the Marina waterfront.
The service had following the acquisition of the two boats told stakeholders in 2015 that they will be commissioned and deployed to patrol the nation’s inland waters, a promise that was not fulfilled more than four years after, as the boats were tied at the jetty rotting away.
Ali, on taking over the leadership of the Service in 2015, slated the commissioning and subsequent deployment of the patrol boats to 2016, which was also never done, thus allowing the smugglers to operate on the waterways freely.
Delivering the keynote address in yesterday’s inauguration, Ali disclosed that Nigeria’s quest for non-oil revenue was dependent on the NCS to fight smuggling and bring it to the barest minimum.
According to him, experience has shown that whenever smugglers face stiff enforcement by Customs anti-smuggling operatives on the land, they turn to the waterways to carry out their illegal trade.
He said, “Unfortunately, before now the service has been weak on the water arising from the lack of seagoing vessels to effectively checkmate smugglers on the high sea”.
He explained that the inauguration of the two seagoing vessels, well equipped with necessary firepower and other requirements for long-time water patrol, was in line with the ongoing repositioning of the service to effectively deliver on its mandate to the nation.
He said, “With these vessels, I hope smugglers will no longer take advantage of NCS vulnerability on water to smuggle in contraband. NCS Marine operatives can now sail to intercept them right on the high sea”.
Source: Business and Maritime West Africa