The Comptroller General of Customs Hameed Ali has been advised to investigate the reason why the Nigeria Customs Service abandoned the two new patrol boats it purchased at Marina waterfront in Lagos since 2015.
The boats, which cost the Service $500m, were purchased to beef up the fight against smuggling and smugglers on the nation’s territorial but have never weathered the coast.
Reacting to the development in an interview with PortNews/PortNewsNigeria, Mr. Kunle Arowojobe, a customs agent, said the nation is losing heavily to smugglers and called on the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, to carry out an investigation on why the boats are left unused since their purchase so as to avoid a repeat in future and quickly put the machine into use to strengthen anti-smuggling control on our water ways.
According to Arowojobe, ‘CG Ali must investigate the reason for the abandonment to avoid a repeat in future. The Nigeria Customs Service is putting a lot of attention on the ports whereas the nation is losing a lot of revenue through the land borders, waterways and many unapproved roots. Having such patrol boats parading our waterways, the unfettered access and control smugglers enjoy on our waterways would be checked; such goods will be directed through the right borders and more revenue will accrue to government.’
To Mr. Bamidele Oni, a customs agent, the abandonment is a reflection of the attitude of the nation towards national projects which are abandoned across the country.
He said he is not surprise that the Nigeria Customs Service is trailing behind the nation in the area of project abandonment, wondering why the Service could abandon such a vital tool that could have helped it in achieving one of its core mandates, which is anti-smuggling.
He said piloting the boats could be one of the reasons they are left unused two years after their purchase but quick to say ‘how will customs officers use the patrol boats when they have not been trained on how to use it?’
He noted that the jetty at the Western Marine Command at Ibafon, Apapa, which has been under construction for so many years, is yet to be completed, adding that such boats with a huge financial cost would require a standard jetty to park.
He said the Service needs more hands, such patrol boats and modern equipment in its fight against smuggling, charging the Comptroller General of Customs to re-deploy many customs officers who milk around in the ports doing nothing to the anti-smuggling unit, saying that this would empower the Service to combat smuggling and smugglers.
It would be recalled that the two specialised security patrol boats were acquired at over $500 million by the Nigeria Customs Service in 2015 under the headship of Alhaji Abduallhi Dikko as Comptroller General and since abandoned at Marina waterfront, in Lagos. The boats christened ‘Customs Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ are rotting away.
It was further gathered that the boats were meant for dedicated patrols by the marine commands, as part of efforts to checkmate the increasing menace of smugglers on the nation’s waterways, which are the primary responsibility of the Eastern and Western Marine Commands of the service. 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.