Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) has condemned the abandonment of anti-smuggling security patrol boats worth over N180billion since 2015.
The group of journalists revealed this in a press statement disseminated today, encouraging the management of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to swiftly address the issue.
According to MARAN, the assets were procured by former President Goodluck Jonathan administration for the NCS, but they have been abandoned since 2015 at the Marina, Lagos waterfront.
“It is a sad commentary on the rationality of the former leadership of the NCS that more than eight years after procurement, and many years after the immediate-past administration and the Customs Comptroller General (CG), promised that the two patrol boats would be rescued from disuse, the boats have rather become a pitiable sight as most of its gadgets have gone useless, casting Nigeria in a bad light, among the comity of nations.”
“More pathetic and anger-inducing is the fact that the patrol boats, which consumes more than N5 billion as annual maintenance fees have, however, not been put into use even after being commissioned by former Customs boss, Rtd Col. Hameed Ali,” the group said.
MARAN, however, demanded that the issues surrounding the abandonment of the vessels should be sorted out immediately, suggesting that the Customs management consults experts to rescue the assets.
“These vessels are eaten away daily by termites while the officers and men of the Western and Eastern Marine Commands of the Customs go on patrol operations on the waterways with obsolete and smaller patrol boats that has made them easy prey for smugglers. Many have lost their lives in the process.”
“Inside sources say that the boats are more than overdue for dry-docking and routine maintenance, going by the manufacturer’s specification,” the group said.
It will be recalled that the procurement of the patrol boats was initiated by the Management of NCS under the tenure of late Abdullahi Dikko inde, to boost marine anti-smuggling operations.
“The contract to build the boats was awarded to a South African firm, Kobus Naval Design , KND, by the government in 2012. The then Jonathan-led Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved N3 billion for the procurement of the two NCS patrol boats for the surveillance of Nigerian waters. Based on the order, the two vessels named ”Customs Pride” and “Group of Nine” were slated to be delivered to the NCS within 10 months but was not delivered until April 2015, three years behind schedule.”
“The total cost of building the two patrol boats by the firm catapulted to over N180bn from the initial approved sum, raising questions about perceived sharp practices. Nevertheless, the patrol boats which were delivered to the NCS in April 2015 have been abandoned at the Marina waterfronts in Lagos, where it is idling away at great cost of maintenance to the NCS.”
While commissioning the two sea-going boats in September 2019, the then CG of Customs, Hameed Ali, admitted that the Service have been weak on the waterways compared to the land and that this necessitated the purchase of the two boats.
This situation, he agreed led to the death of nine Customs marine officers while confronting deadly petrol smugglers on the sea in 2012.
It was in honour of this group of nine gallant officers who died in the service of their fatherland that one of the seagoing vessels was named ‘Group of Nine’ while the other represents the ‘Customs Pride’ on the sea.
One would expect that since the Service now has four marine commands, namely Western Marine, Eastern Maritime, North-Western Marine and North Eastern Marine commands, there is no better time than now to put the boats the effective.
MARAN equally pointed out that Nigeria is going through economic turbulence and cannot afford the culture of waste amplified by the past administration of Customs.
“This is a call on the Acting CG of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi to take immediate steps to get the boats functional as the Customs operations more than ever require these vessels to confront smugglers,” the association stated.