A new Cessna Citation CJ4 aircraft for the Nigeria Customs Service was inaugurated during a ceremony on Friday. The aircraft will be used for surveillance as the customs service combats smuggling and other problems.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, inaugurated the aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. She said the aircraft would help prevent economic sabotage and cross-border crimes. “It has being a long time coming but a lot of hard work has come into this to make this day possible.”
“This is a great occasion because we have long wanted to enhance the surveillance capacity of the Customs and we want to strengthen their ability on air and the sea,” she said. “When this was presented to FEC three months ago, we recognised that this was worth doing since we want to enhance our economic viability, facilitate trade and boost revenue.”
“The aircraft is an investment for which the country expects good returns,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “The terrain around the country’s borders includes difficult-to-access riverine and mountainous areas, which make monitoring and combating of the activities of the borders challenging. Several customs personnel have lost their lives or sustained injuries during attacks by smugglers in recent times.”
“We have the capacity and ability to carry out our responsibilities without hindrances,” said Nigeria Customs Service Comptroller General Abdullahi Dikko. The Cessna joins another four aircraft in the custom service’s fleet.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in May approved N1.73 billion (US$11 million) for the aircraft. According to Information Minister Labaran Maku, the aircraft would be fitted with surveillance and communications equipment, including cameras, reports the Nigerian Tribune. The aircraft was procured through Africair Incorporated.
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.
In April 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.
Dikko earlier this year 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.