After what looked like eternity, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has finally deployed the eighteen (18) patrol boats it acquired recently to boost its anti-smuggling operations, with the allocation of between three to five each to the four marine commands, nationwide.
The commands are Western Marine, Eastern Marine, North Eastern Marine, and North Western Marine Command, respectively.
This is even as usually dependable top in-house sources informed our reporter in confidence that the deployment of the patrol boats were delayed owing to demand by the headquarters for the builders to fit the boats with all approved design equipment and navigational aids, in keeping with the rules of engagement (ROE).
It will be recalled that the 18 patrol boats acquired by the Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) led customs management in 2020 was commissioned in Port Harcourt, January this year.
Ali had during the commissioning ceremony stated that the boats have high velocity performances and operability, noting they were built to mesmerize and put smugglers on the run.
Our sources informed that based on certain reports that the assets were not fully kitted with all the requisite design contained in the contract, Ali directed and insisted that the boats be returned to the manufacturer and reworked to encapsulate all the design paraphernalia contained in the contract agreement.
According to one of the sources, the CG reportedly refused to buy into arguments on the need to run with the patrol boats as supplied while remedial works are undertaken on a one-on-one basis.
He explained that the development accounted for the over five months delay.
Further findings by our reporter indicate that some of the existing fleet is also undergoing various degrees of dry docking and repairs in Lagos and Port Harcourt; some allegedly by SEWA West Africa, which built the 18 patrol boats in question; made up of nine logistics boats and nine gunboats, respectively.
Already some of the marine commands have confirmed receipt of some of the boats allocated to them, but declined to state the numbers received.
The Western Marine Command recently handed over 32 sacks of Cannabis Sativa known in local parlance as wee-wee or igbo seized by its operatives to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Western Marine Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Abubakar Alhaji Umar, while handing over the illicit drug explained that other items intercepted by his officers and men include contraband foreign parboiled rice with a combined value of One Hundred and Ninety Million Naira, N190million.
It is also instructive that the Chairman//Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDLEA, Brig Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa at a One-Day Town Hall Meeting recently held at the Rockview Hotel GRA Apapa with the theme “Towards a Drug-Free Port Environment” organized by The JournalNG, disclosed that a total of 4,349.25 kilograms of assorted drugs was seized by the agency in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service between January to May, 2022.
Marwa who was represented by Mr. Ameh Inalegwu, NDLEA Commander, Apapa Port, lauded the contribution of the customs service, particularly the WMC in tackling the menace of drug smuggling along the coastal waterways; noting that the nation’s waterways has become a major smuggling route for drug smugglers.