Two years after they were procured at a huge sum of $500million by the Nigeria Customs Service, two specialised security patrol boats; 'Customs Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ are currently rotting away at the Marina jetty in Lagos.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that, the non-deployment of the boats have largely impacted on the performances of the Western and Eastern marine commands of the service, located in Lagos and Calabar respectively.
There are allegations that the service also spends about N5billion annually to maintaining the two patrol boats that were acquired in 2015, as it needs to run the engines as well as the generating sets and other communication equipment on board the boats while at the Marina jetty.
It was further gathered that the boats, which were acquired by the immediate past Comptroller General of the service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi Inde, 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. Both the Eastern and Western Marine Commands of the service were created specifically for this purpose.
The service had, following the acquisition of the two boats told stakeholders 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.
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 Controller 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 increasing cases of smuggling within the nation’s coastal waters.
Shipping Position Daily recalls however that the incumbent Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd)at a visit to the Tin Can Island Customs command in 2017, lamented the high cost of fitting guns on the two patrol boats.
Our correspondent contacted the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Joseph Attah to confirm any update on the boats and the plans of the Customs management for them in 2018, but he failed to pick his phone.