Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has abandoned its $500 million security patrol boats acquired two years ago at the Marina Jetty in Lagos.
This is at a time when there have been 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 absence of patrol boats and other operational equipment.
However, the National Public Relations Office (PRO) of the Service, Joseph Attah, was quoted to have assured that the boats will soon be deployed even though no time frame was given.
Investigations showed that the Service spent over N5 billion annually in maintaining the two patrol boats christened ‘MV Customs Pride’ and ‘MV 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 meant for dedicated patrols by the marine commands, as part of efforts to checkmate the increasing menace of smugglers on the nation’s waterways, were the primary responsibility of the Eastern and Western Marine Commands of the service
The service, 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.
It later slated the commissioning and deployment of the patrol boats to 2016, which did not take place, 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, 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.
Joseph Attah said everything is ready for the commissioning and deployment but stressed that he has no knowledge of the cost of the patrol boats.
He further explained that without the relevant equipment fixed to the boats, they may also end up in the hands of smugglers.