Uncertainties trail Customs’ patrol boats three years after …As bandits, smugglers take over waterways
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The inability of the Nigeria Customs Service to effectively deploy the two security patrol boats acquired at the cost of over $500million (N182.5billion), over three years ago, has constituted a major source of concerns to maritime stakeholders.
This is given the increasing menace of smugglers and other bandits on the nation’s waterways, who engage in series of security and economic crimes.
The two patrol boats christened; ‘Customs Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ acquired since 2015 by the former Comptroller General, Abdullahi Dikko for the Eastern and Western Marine Commands of the service are currently wasting away at the Marina Jetty in Lagos due to the failure of the current management of the service to put them into effective use.
Part of the reasons for the non –deployment of the two sophisticated boats was because they have not been fitted with guns and other ammunitions without which they would not serve the purpose for which they were acquired.
Investigations however showed that the current management of the service headed by Col. Hameed Ali, as part of measures to ensure that the boats were put into effective use to curtail the increasing menace of smugglers across the nation’s creeks and other waterways imported some guns to be mounted on the boats through the Calabar Ports.
It was further gathered that the service had last year contracted the Nigerian Navy for a fee to mount the guns on the boats to pave way for their deployment and commissioning, which has been stalled owing to the failure of the service to mobilise the Navy to commence the job.
National Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah, who spoke in a telephone interview, admitted that the service has not been able to consummate the contract between the service and the Nigerian Navy to mount the guns.
The PRO was however silent on why the contract has not been consummated and when it would likely be, an indication that the boats might not be commissioned any time soon.
Meanwhile stakeholders have expressed concerns as smugglers and other criminals are having a field day in the nation’s creeks and inland waters, since none of the two Marine Commands of the service has a single patrol boat on their fleet.
It was further gathered that the inability of the service to mobilise the Navy more than eight months after the contract was enacted may not be unconnected with paucity of funds, as the two boats rot away, a development that has become worrisome to stakeholders.
This is also given that the service generated a whopping N1trillion for the 2017 fiscal year, which is its highest revenue ever in the history of the service.