Smuggling: Customs abandones $500m Customs patrol boats

Hameed Ali, CustomsCG

Smuggling is said to be on the rise on the nation’s inland waters and creeks. The two specialised security patrol boats acquired at over $500 million by the Nigeria Customs Service which could have helped its marine commands to battle smugglers are yet to be put to use.

According to investigation, the two boat that were acquired more than two years ago are currently rotting away at the Marina jetty.

The failure of the Service to handover the boats to its marine commands have been rendered ineffective due to lack  of patrol boats and other operational equipment.

Investigations show that the service also spends over N5billion annually in maintaining the two patrol boats christened ‘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.

It was further gathered that the 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 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 takeholders in 2015 that they will be commissioned and deployed topatrol the nation’s inland waters, a promise that has not beenfulfilled 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 thepatrol boats to 2016, which was also never done, thus allowing thesmugglers to operate on the waterways freely.

Former Customs Area Controller (CAC), in charge of the Western Marine Comand 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 deploying 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.


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