Two specialised security patrol boats acquired at over $500 million by the Nigeria Customs service more than two years ago are currently waste away at the Marina jetty, investigations have revealed.
This is coming amidst reports of increased smuggling and other criminal activities within the nation’s inland waters and creeks, as the Marine Commands of the service have been rendered ineffective due to the total absence of patrol boats and other operational equipment. Investigations show that the service also spends over N5billion
annually in maintaining the two patrol boats christened ‘CustomsPride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ acquired since 2015, as it needs to run the engine 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 DikkoAbdullahi, 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.
It is the primary responsibility of the Eastern and Western Marine Commands of the service to conduct anti smuggling operations along the Nation’s vast coastal areas and waterways.
The service had following the acquisition of the two boats toldstakeholders 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.
The boats are still on anchorage at the jetty rotting away, as at the time of filling this report.
Curiously, the Service 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 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 had further restated resolve to deploy the boats which were still idling away, as soon as the needful steps was taken to equip them.
Meanwhile ,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.