Published On: Tue, Jan 16th, 2018

Customs’ N16.3bn patrol boats rot away at Lagos Jetty

As the dare-devil smugglers are having a field day on the inland waterways where they carry out their nefarious activities with little checks from the Nigeria Customs Service, two specialized security patrol boats acquired at over $100m (N16.300billion) by the Service more than three years ago are currently rotting away at the Marina jetty, Lagos.
Ironically, the Marine Commands of the service, which are the amphibious arms of the Customs and saddled with the statutory responsibility of keeping the inland waterways free of smugglers, have over the years been rendered ineffective due to the absence of patrol boats and other operational equipment that will adequately equip them to effectively engage the waterways smugglers.
The high caliber boats, which were acquired by the immediate- past Comptroller General of the service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi,  were meant for dedicated patrols by the marine commands as part of efforts to curb the increasing menace of smugglers on the nation’s waterways.
The boats, which were built in a shipyard in Turkey, were designed and fabricated to withstand rough seas and armed attacks from smugglers and sea pirates. The shipyard, it was learnt, also trained some personnel of the service to handle the boats.
Sources close to the Customs high command disclosed that the service spends over N500 million annually to maintain the two patrol boats christened ‘Customs Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ respectively acquired since 2015.

This sum, the sources claimed, is part of the expenditure designed to run the engines as well as generating sets and other communication equipment on- board the boats anchored at the Marina, Lagos waterfront.
Following the acquisition of the two boats, the Service had told stakeholders in 2015 that the crafts would be commissioned and deployed to patrol the nation’s inland waters, a promise that has not been fulfilled after three years, as the boats are still tied at the jetty, rotting away.
The Service later slated the commissioning and subsequent deployment of the patrol boats to 2016, which was also never done.
It could be recalled that former Customs Area Controller (CAC) in charge of the Western Marine Command of the service, 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. He also added that some officers of the command had already been trained on how to operate the boats.
Meanwhile, when he assumed office  in April last year, the current CAC in charge of the command, Sarkin Kebbi, told newsmen during a press conference that the two patrol boats were yet to be commissioned and deployed for operations due to the absence of adequate armoury and a trained crew.
Kebbi promised that the boats would soon be engaged appropriately to counter the nefarious activities of smugglers along the creeks.
Nearly nine months after Kebbi’s promise, however, the Service is yet to commission the boats and deploy them to combat the worsening cases of smuggling and insecurity in the nation’s waterways.

All efforts to reach the Public Relations Officer of the Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah to authenticate the claims did not yield results as his phone number was not reachable.

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