The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has abandoned two specialised security patrol boats acquired by the service more than two years ago for the purpose of fighting the activities of smugglers, recent investigations have shown.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the patrol boats, which are now wasting away at the Marina Jetty in Lagos were acquired at over N180billion ($500m at current exchange rate), by the NCS during the administration of the immediate past Comptroller General of the service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi.
It was also gathered that the failure of the service to utilize these boats have 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 total absence of patrol boats and other operational platforms.
Investigations also indicated that the service spends a whopping N5billion annually in maintaining the two patrol boats, the ‘Customs’ Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ acquired since 2015, 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 has not been fulfilled more than two years after, as the boats are still tied at the jetty rotting away.
It later 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.
Former Customs Area Controller (CAC), in charge of the Western Marine Command of the service, Comptroller Umar Yusuf, during a media briefing attributed the delay to the need to install guns on the boats before commissioning and deployment for operational activities.
He had also claimed that one of the vessels was involved in an accident where it was anchored and had to be repaired, adding that some officers of the command had already been trained in the operations of the boats.
Meanwhile, the incumbent CAC in charge of the Western Marine Command, Comptroller Sarkin Kebbi, who assumed office April, last year had told newsmen during a press conference that the two patrol boats were yet to be commissioned and deployed for operations due to absence of adequate armory and a trained crew.
Kebbi promised that the boats which were still idling away on the marina waterfront would soon be engaged appropriately. But, since that did not happen, smugglers operate with ease along the creeks.
Nearly nine months later, the service is yet to commission the boats and deploy them to combat the worsening cases of smuggling.
However, in a reaction to the development, the national public relations officer, NCS, Mr Joseph Attah told our correspondent on phone yesterday that the patrol boats have not been put to use because as high sea going vessels, certain security apparatus that are supposed to be on the boats are not there now. He said the management of the NCS has concluded arrangement to partner with the Nigerian Navy to add the necessary security gadgets in the boats.
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