Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, a retired Nigerian Army Colonel, is currently turning the heat on smugglers in the Rivers State axis of Nigeria. To boost his anti-smuggling war, he has inaugurated 18 gunboats and scanners in the state.
The 18 gunboats will be used by the Eastern Marine Command of the Customs to eradicate the menace of smuggling on Nigeria waterways, while the scanners are deployed for smooth and seamless cargo documentation and clearance at Onne Seaport.
Ali said the addition of these 18 creeks patrol boats to the marine arsenal at a time when more smugglers are running away from the heat on land to water is simply the right thing to do.
Continuing, he said it marks the beginning of a renewed offensive against those who chose creeks and waterways as safe haven for their illegal trade, explaining that the 18 creeks patrol boats, consisting of 9 logistic support boats and nine gunboats whose parts are armoured, should send clear signals to the criminals that the game is up.
“Unlike before, we now have boats with flat bottoms that can access the creeks even when the water has receded ”, he said, adding, ‘’in-line with the Executive Order on Local Content of 2017, NCS tapped into the ingenuity of a Nigerian company, SEWA to design, construct and build these edifices.
‘’As you can see, these boats are not only built with our weather and circumstances in mind, they can compete with similar ones built anywhere in the world’’, the customs chief said, reiterating that the relationship between Customs and SEWA represents excellent examples of what Nigerians can achieve when we come together.
Ali commended SEWA for delivering on their promise and have no hesitation to recommend them to individuals or organisations that need what they are capable of producing.
“As we commission these boats which will be deployed for the Southern waters, (the Eastern and Western Marine Commands), I urge our Marine Operatives to use them judiciously in the interest of the nation”.
He reaffirmed the importance of the cooperation of all Nigerians in fighting to smuggle “Let me state here that even with the best of working tools, NCS efforts will not yield maximum output, If Nigerians for which we work, do not give us needed cooperation. I, therefore, call on well-meaning individuals and organisations to give the Service credible information that will enable interception and seizures of smuggled items.”
On the support of the media to the success of his administration, Ali said, “To the members of the fourth estate of the realm, the media, I thank you for your continuous support and urge you not to relent on your valuable job of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Together, we will succeed.”
Chairman of SEWA West Africa, Murtala S. Mohammed, an engineer, earlier explained, ” the contract for these boats was signed on 15 of July 2020 but activities were slowed down due to Covid-19 pandemic and with these challenges, SEWA was able to complete the boats last year. SEWA also offers manufacturers training at no cost to officers of the Nigeria Customs Service, NSC, to enhance the usage of these boats.”
Adding, he said” these boats were designed and constructed by SEWA West Africa Limited here in Nigeria which is a laudable achievement of the local content policy of the federal government of Nigeria. We are indeed grateful for the opportunity given to our company to contribute toward achieving those objectives of the Nigeria Customs Service.”
Also in his welcome address, the Managing Director of SEWA West Africa Limited, Engr. Ian Appleby, said, “All the boats being commissioned are fitted twin OBMs using environmentally friendly technology of 4 – stroke engines. These boats fall into two class sizes 27 ft and 23 lengths.”
Appleby said ‘’over a period of five years we have continually improved on the design and performance of the craft. As the fastest boat built in its class, it is capable of reaching high speed for intercepting smugglers.”
In the same vein, Ali, called on all importers, exporters and relevant stakeholders to adhere strictly to Compliance in fiscal policies of the government and create synergies aimed to generate more revenue to the federal government and avert outright seizures, adding, ‘’the service needs your maximum Compliance and co-operation to achieve its mandate with a cordial relationship.”
He also stated that Customs has already established a standard operating procedure for the maintenance of the boats and would ensure that they are maximally used to flight smuggling, pointing out that the essence is to facilitate trade and ensure more revenue generation to the Federal Government.