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Armored carriers altered balance of terror between officers, smugglers—Customs



Wale Adeniyi

Continued from last time

Why did you introduce the use of armoured carriers in the war against smugglers, more so, when your field officers weren’t doing badly, without it?

In 2012 specifically, we lost two officers around Seme; in 2013 we lost an officer in Oyo; in Kwara around 2011, we lost three officers. They were killed, during either patrols or when they were trying to move seizures to the office. This was why the Nigeria Customs Service saw the need for something that would alter the balance of terror, or something that could effectively match the adventurism of the smugglers, grit for grit, strength for strength; that was why management came up with the idea of acquiring those armoured carriers. And I can tell you this, there is a new level of effectiveness or protection which you feel, when you are in those carriers. They are strong; very strong shields. We are happy to note that it has provided a new level of shield that gives our officers an extra level of confidence. So, we now have situations where we effectively undergo patrols with it.

It is like during those military days when you have anniversary and you see the military display an array of super vehicles or tanks, as what they have in their arsenal. Of course, you are only sending out a message to somebody; that look, ‘if you take us on, we have the capacity to absolve what you can inflict on us. We have the ability to retaliate, as well as inflict possibly heavier harms on you in return’.

So, the armoured carriers were introduced to alter the balance of terror, and we are happy it is working. It was the very first week that we lunched it that we made a seizure of over 8,500 bags of rice in a Badagry creek, in Lagos.

So, I would say, that it is working, and that is why we also want to replicate same thing on water now.

What we are trying to do on the water now is to also provide fast moving boats that similarly offer higher level of protection. It is the most viable way to tackle the illegal rice merchants. They land them in the Republic of Benin and then try to smuggle them home through some of our creeks.


Are you talking of armoured patrol boats?

We already have two of those ones that can optimally function on the water for patrol purposes in the pipelines. The Council of state has approved them and now we have tremendous progress with building the vessels in Turkey.

The set of officers that would man them have also been trained. So, we already have the capacity to man them when they come; and I think it was just two or three weeks ago that the management took the decision to name the vessels after our officers in western Marine that were brutally killed during an operation in 2003. We are doing that to let the families know that we still bear their pains, as well as to let the current officers know that the management is determined to adequately equip them for their statutory duties.

Fortunately these are bigger vessels that can easily take 10 or more heavily armed officers.


If you don’t mind, can we again take your operational patrol casualty index to  enable us see if the Service has indeed achieve any gains from your investment in armoured carriers?

In 2011, we lost nine offices that were felled. In 2012, we lost seven; and in 2013, I think we should be talking of about six officers. But, I don’t want to mix the figures with those who suffered or died as a result of insurgency. I am restricting your question to those we lost, as a result of our anti- smuggling operation.

We can recall instances of where officers were sometimes rounded up after seizures, especially if rice was involved; the risk is higher with rice, in particular, because the logistic of moving rice is different from that of moving some other items that are not as heavy and cumbersome as rice.

Movement of rice puts a lot of responsibility in terms of cost, in terms of resources; and so for most of the time when we seize rice, it also creates a lot of problems for officers and we ensure that their lives were not particularly endangered.

But since we introduced the armoured carriers, we are yet to lose any officer, in the course of our anti-smuggling duties. And like I told you, it is like the military displaying its arsenal. It is like showing the smugglers what we have; it is like showing them our new capability. It is like saying, don’t dare us, because we can absolve whatever you think you can offer; and we can also reciprocate in heavier measures. We thank God, that so far there has not been any recorded instance.


Is that why the Service has seemingly been fetching revenues, even also from places like Calabar and Ibadan, places where you traditionally merely gate-keep against smugglers?

The trend in smuggling is that once you close up one place; or once they perceive that there seem to be no compromise in one sector, they quickly move to another sector.

When we brought the PAAR into the ports, and also brought the regime of ICT operations into the ports, the stake became higher for them in the ports. They were no longer finding it easier, like they used to, and that may explain why they probably had to divert, one way or the other. And part of the places where they have probably diverted to, are those places—along the borders.

So, when goods that are not under import prohibitions are arrested in such places, the Customs has the power under the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to allow such people to pay duty on them and take it away instead of an outright seizure or forfeiture!

This is in so far as the goods are not under import prohibitions.

Rice for instance, is however restricted. So, there is no compromise for rice. For medication, we always call the NAFDAC, and they go with their investigations, the basis of which they run their decisions especially in terms of it is worth of human consumption.

But there are some other items or general goods that may be arrested, even though they do not fall under import prohibition. So, for such goods, whether they arrested them at the borders, creeks, or anywhere else, all we do is exercise our powers under the CEMA, to charge the appropriate import duty on them.

For such goods, we have therefore created appropriate sub-headings; because through such appropriate systems that we have installed for them, they can process these goods and collect appropriate payment on them. And that is what you may have observed at places like Ibadan, or the Federal operations in Lagos, etc.; even though they are not ports of entries, we can also process duty collection on certain classes of goods.

Finally, what is your revenue target for this year and what is your blue print for achieving it?

We have a target of N950 billion for 2015. It was actually reviewed downwards, on account of our experience last year.

But the management’s target is still the same. We are looking beyond that. We are hoping to consolidate on PAAR, and to continue to make doing business in the country a pleasant experience.

We also target ensuring, that less time would be used to clear the goods. We are equally believing strongly, that more and more people would become more transparent in doing their business. And that is an aspect of the blueprint!


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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