The Nigerian government has approved the purchase of two patrol boats for its Customs Service, which will be delivered in nine months’ time and be used to combat smuggling and piracy.
On May 9 Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N3 billion for the procurement of two Customs Service patrol boats for the surveillance of Nigerian waters. Information Minister Labaran Maku said the boats would be used to curb smuggling and piracy.
“An effective patrolled water front will go a long way in curtailing the huge economic drain and threat the incidence of smuggling pose to the nation’s manufacturing sector,” Maku said.
Nigerian marine logistics and support service provider Portplus Limited will cover spares and training of 72 crewmembers over a three-year period, according to Nigeria’s This Day. The contract for the boats is worth N3 072 653 164.
This Day reports Maku saying that the Customs Service had 60 vessels, of which 55 were in service. He said negotiations for the purchase of the boats started last year and continued into 2012 as the government provided the necessary funding.
The FEC also recently approved N1.7 billion (US$11 million) for the purchase of a Cessna Citation CJ4 aircraft for the Customs Service. 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.
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.”
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.