By Richards Adeniyi
There is finally a ray of hope, that the Nigeria Customs’ state of the art patrol boats, specially procured to battle smuggling but later abandoned since 2015 may soon be ‘resurrected’, to perform the task they were hitherto acquired for.
While their current state could not be determined, in terms of actual decay or class, a NOMMA investigation shows that the Nigeria Customs Service has finally begun to fine tune arrangements to utilize the vessels: ‘Customs Pride’ and the ‘Group of Nine’.
Concerned stakeholders and the Nigerian media had since 2015 wondered why the Nigeria Customs Service moored it’s security patrol vessels (the ‘Customs Pride and the ‘Group of Nine’) at Marina in Lagos, rather than make it operational for anti-smuggling operations along the creeks.
Revealing the ray of hope in a telephone call on Sunday, the Customs Public Relations Officer (CPRO), Mr. Joseph Attah, told our correspondent on inquiries why the vessels had laid idle for about four years now; pointing out that Customs high command was working round the clock to ensure its effectiveness, when it finally comes midstream.
“The vessels didn’t immediately get fitted with the required hardware to make them fit as security patrol vessels, because the last administration left very shortly after they were acquired.
“But as we speak, the Service is in fresh talks and is collaborating with the Nigerian Navy to get the vessels fitted with the facilities to get them ready for security patrol operations.”
The CPRO also mentioned that in readiness for a well-defined and effective anti-smuggling operation along the creeks, the Service had started an in-country training of some officers of the Marine Commands.
Reacting to the issue of the Western Marine Command of the Customs Service hiring wooden boats to transport seized smuggled rice, Attah said though he wasn’t aware of it, the quantity of seized goods may have warranted it.
He argued that it wouldn’t be out of place for the operations team to decide on a harmless initiative to get an assignment done.
His words: “I don’t think it would be out of place if the command hired wooden boats to support what they have, in order to get their operation completed. If they had to move seized goods at that point in time, they can muster all available resources.”
He, however, added that even if the two vessels were operational, they would serve for security patrol only, and not for moving seized bags of smuggled rice.
Meanwhile, the CPRO has declined to assign a figure to the cost of purchasing the vessels, nor the cost of maintaining the vessels at the marina waterfront since they were brought in 2015.
NOMMA Investigations recall that when the attention of the Nigeria Customs Service was drawn to the idling security patrol boats in 2018, newsmen were told that plans had been concluded to engage the boats for operations but sadly this was not implemented up till now.