There is a furore over the N10 billion said to have been spent by the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Ibrahim Hameed Ali (retired) on the two patrol boats lying idle in the last two years at Marina Jetty, Lagos.
The two state-of-the-art boats were procured by Ali’s predecessor, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi four years ago following repeated loss of officers and men in confrontation with smugglers.
The two patrol boats which were meant to give officers and men of NCS an edge in the anti-smuggling campaign in Nigeria territorial waters were not fitted with the requisite arms and ammunitions.
Several promises to refit the two modern patrol boats with guns have not been kept by Ali just as he continue to spend millions of tax payers money to maintain the two idle boats at Marina Jetty, Lagos.
Already, stakeholders in the maritime industry have called for a thorough probe of the circumstances surrounding the wasting of a whopping N10 billion to maintain the two idle boats.
Those who spoke to Maritime Bits wondered why the retired military officer who was the military governor of Kaduna State in his hey days will continue to waste scare resources on the two idle patrol boats in the face of suffering of Nigerians as a result of the downturn in the economy.
Asking the leadership of the National Assembly to do a thorough job of probing the N10 billion, they raised eyebrows on the monumental waste in the face of the suffering of the citizenry.
According to a Lagos base licensed customs agent, Mr. Chike Anosike, the National Assembly must probe this. Do you know how N10 billion is and what it can be used for? This government is not serious at all. That amount can be used to fix part of the roads in Apapa or elsewhere. The National Assembly must rise and safe this nation from this government of waste in the midst of scarcity and suffering.
Also speaking, Mr. Kunle Arowojobe said the nation is losing heavily to smugglers, even as he stressed the need for an investigation on why the boats are left unused since their purchase so as to avoid a repeat in the future. He argued that putting the machine into use would help in no small way to strengthen the anti-smuggling campaign in Nigeria waterways.
According to Arowojobe, the NCS is putting a lot of attention on the nation’s seaports, airports and international land borders whereas the nation is losing a lot of revenue through the waterways and many unapproved roots.
Continuing, Arowojobe who is a license customs agent said: “Having such patrol boats parading our waterways, the unfettered access and control smugglers enjoy on our waterways would be checked. Such goods will be directed through the right borders and more revenue will accrue into government coffers”.
An importer, Mr. Bamidele Oni noted that the abandonment is a reflection of the attitude of the nation towards national projects which are abandoned across the country.
He said he is not surprise that the Nigeria Customs Service is leading in the area of project abandonment, wondering why the service could abandon such a vital tool that could have helped it in achieving one of its core mandates of anti-smuggling.
According to him, piloting the boats could be one of the reasons they were left unused two years after their purchase. How will customs officers use the patrol boats when they have not been trained on how to use it?’
He noted that the jetty at the Western Marine Command at Ibafon, Apapa, Lagos which has been under construction for so many years, is yet to be completed, adding that such boats with a huge financial cost would require a standard jetty to berth.
Oni stated that the NCS needs more hands besides more patrol boats and modern equipment in its fight against smuggling across the country.
Those who spoke to Maritime Bits charged the Comptroller General of Customs to re-deploy many customs officers who mill around in the ports doing nothing in the delivery of its three core functions, revenue generation, anti-smuggling and trade facilitation.
Maritime Bits findings showed that the boats which cost the NCS $500m were purchased to beef up the fight against smuggling and smugglers on the nation’s territorial waters.