Operational Issues Delay Use Of N180bn Customs Vessels At Lagos Jetty

3

Smuggling on the nation’s inland waterways have continued unabated as operational issues delay the use of N180 billion patrol boats purchased by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), LEADERSHIP can report.

The patrol boats, which are also gulping N5billion in yearly maintenance costs, have however, not been put into use two years after the comptroller general of the Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), commissioned it.

The deputy national public relations officer, Deputy Comptroller (DC) of Customs, Timi Bomodi, has however explained the delay in putting the vessels to good use, saying a lot of issues were responsible for their abandonment.

According to him, the vessels will be put into use as soon as they are fit for operation, adding that the Service is capable of meeting smuggling challenges with the available equipment.

He said, “On using the vessels, it is not only maintenance but manning, and we have trained a particular set for that, but we are training another one, but the marine department of the service is not short of equipment.

“The boats have not been made operational because of some issues but they are more than capable to meet smuggling challenges, so we have no reason to doubt their capabilities.”

Speaking on when to put on the vessels into use, he said, ” As soon as they are fit and ready to be deployed, they will be put into use.”

While these vessels rot away, the officers of Western and Eastern Marine Commands of the Service go on patrol with risky, rickety smaller patrol boats that cannot withstand happenings at the high seas where smugglers have a field day.

LEADERSHIP reports that criminals smuggle Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), foreign parboiled rice, fake and unregistered drugs such as tramadol, codeine, Indian hemp among others through the porous inland waterways.

At the commissioning of the patrol boats, the Customs CG promised that with the vessels deployed on the waterways, the unabated smuggling through the inland waterways would stop.

According to him, experience has shown that whenever smugglers face stiff resistance from anti-smuggling operatives on the land, they turn to the waterways to carry out their illegal trade.

“Unfortunately, before now the Service had been weak on the water arising from the lack of seagoing vessels to effectively check smugglers on the high sea,” he said.

The Customs comptroller-general explained that the two seagoing vessels are well equipped with necessary firepower and other requirements for long time water patrol. “With these vessels, I hope smugglers will no longer take advantage of NCS’ vulnerability on water to smuggle in contraband. NCS marine operatives can now sail to intercept them right on the high sea,” he said.

However, since the commissioning of the two patrol vessels in September 2019, they have not been used for any anti-smuggling activities and they have been gulping huge amount of money on routine yearly maintenance.

It was gathered from a source that the boats currently await overdue dry-docking in routine maintenance according to manufacturer’s specification since 2020, either at Naval Shipyard or Niger Dock bay, but are yet to undergo such.

Similarly, gadgets that accompanied the boats for its main operational functions have packed up and presently in a dysfunctional state due to non-usage.

Some of the gadgets include the radar, radios, generating set, and water-jet. Also, the lack of fuel to run it daily has also reduced the efficiency or speed of the vessels, among others.

Speaking on the development, a clearing agent, Frank Chukwu, alleged that the patrol vessels had been turned into a drain pipe by the Service.

Chukwu said the officers are put at risk operating with rickety canoes while sophisticated equipment are abandoned to rot away.

He said, “The Service is putting its officers at risk as they abandoned sophisticated anti-smuggling equipment and (its officers) patrol the waterways with rickety boats. This is a festive period and this is when smuggling is high and since the land is becoming increasingly unsafe for smugglers, hence, they will resort to the waterways,” he said.

When contacted, the deputy national public relations officer, Deputy Comptroller (DC) of Customs, Timi Bomodi, confirmed the abandonment of the vessels at Marina Jetty, Lagos, saying a lot of issues were responsible for their abandonment.

The Customs spokesman said the vessels will be put into use as soon as they are fit for operation, adding that the Service is more capable of meeting smuggling challenges with the equipment in its possession.

He said, “On using the vessels, it is not only maintenance but manning, and we have trained a particular set for that, but we are training another one, but the marine department of the service is not short of equipment.

“The boats have not been made operational because of some issues but they are more than capable to meet smuggling challenges, so we have no reason to doubt their capabilities.”

Speaking on when to put on the vessels into use, he said, ” As soon as they are fit and ready to be deployed, they will be put into use.”

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept