Nigeria procuring Cessna Citation for Customs Service

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Nigeria’s government has approved the purchase of a Cessna Citation CJ4 aircraft, which will be used for surveillance by the Nigeria Customs Service as it combats smuggling and other problems.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N1.7 billion (US$11 million) for the aircraft, according to Information Minister Labaran Maku. He was reporting on the outcome of the Council meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan. Maku said that the aircraft would be used for surveillance missions along Nigeria’s borders and would help combat economic sabotage and cross-border crimes.

The minister added that the aircraft would be fitted with surveillance and communications equipment, including cameras, reports the Nigerian Tribune. The aircraft is being procured through Africair Incorporated and will be delivered within four months’ time.

The FEC’s approval of the purchase comes after the Council considered a memo presented by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, said the aircraft would go a long way in containing smuggling.
“The efforts of our men on ground can only be successful if they have air coverage and that is why we brought this memo to acquire this aircraft, which is equipped with satellite communication equipment that can actually survey the border unseen from the ground. It can also communicate with the men on ground to tell them that in this area or that area we can see illegal movements of vehicles.
“We have defined points, where the Customs men can actually monitor movement across our borders, but Nigeria is very big, you cannot have our Customs men at each point of the border. Therefore, the air coverage is actually a strategic move to ensure their effectiveness.”

On May 9 the FEC approved N3 billion for the procurement of two patrol boats for the Customs Service marine operations. They will be used to combat piracy and smuggling and will be delivered in approximately nine months’ time.

Last month it was reported that the Nigerian Customs Service had taken delivery of two helicopters and would soon receive 400 Toyota Hilux vehicles and 5 000 AK-47 assault rifles in an effort to secure the country’s borders.

Alhaji Mohammed Dikko, the Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, said that his agency had already acquired the helicopters for surveillance of Nigeria’s borders and added that President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the purchase of 400 Toyota Hilux vehicles for border patrol.

Dikko went on to say that his agency had imported approximately 5 000 AK-47 assault rifles to arm its personnel against smugglers and gun runners.

Border control is an increasingly important issue in Nigeria. Militant groups in the oil-producing Niger Delta have been illegally supplying weapons for years and Boko Haram is also believed to have received illegal arms, raising questions about border surveillance, especially after reports that weapons looted from Libya have turned up in Nigeria.