The Nigeria Customs Service has commissioned its two sea going vessels purchased to curtail the activities of smugglers on the nation’s waterways.
The vessels, which were christened ‘Customs Pride’ and ‘Group of Nine’ in honour of nine marine officers who died in battle with smugglers in 2012, were purchased under the administration of the former Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko in 2015.
Speaking at the commissioning of the vessels at the Naval Dockyard in Lagos on Thursday, the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, said Nigeria’s quest for non-oil revenue is largely dependent on the Service to fight smuggling and bring it to the barest minimum.
He said experience has shown that whenever smugglers face stiff resistance by NCS anti-smuggling operatives on the land, they turn to the waterways to carry out their illegal trade.
“Unfortunately, before now the service has been weak on the water arising from the lack of seagoing vessels to effectively checkmate smugglers on the high sea. This situation led to the death of nine Customs marine officers while confronting deadly petrol smugglers on the sea in 2012.
“It is in honour of this group of nine gallant officers who died in the service of their fatherland that one of the seagoing vessels was named ‘Group of Nine’ while the other represents the ‘Customs Pride’ on the se,” Ali said.
The Customs Comptroller-General explained that the two seagoing vessels are well equipped with necessary firepower and other requirements for long time water patrol is in line with the ongoing repositioning of the service to effectively deliver its mandate to the nation.
“With these vessels, I hope smugglers will no longer take advantage of NCS vulnerability on water to smuggle in contraband. NCS marine operatives can now sail to intercept them right on the high sea.
“The timing of this commissioning is strategic as it will on the immediate boost the ongoing joint security ex-swift response on the water and henceforth remain symbol of NCS strength on the sea.
“The NCS as a present unbundling of the Service now has four marine commands, namely Western Marine, Eastern Maritime, North Western Marine and North Eastern Marine commands. It is therefore the resolve of management that smugglers find no space to operate either on land, air or sea,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno, said that the Federal Government would not bow to any form of blackmail antics over the closure of its land border.
Mongono said that some neighbouring countries are already talking to the Federal Government for reopening of the shut land borders.
Scoring the taskforce on the joint border security high, the NSA said the Federal Government was determine to give support to all security agencies to enable them deal with smuggling.
He said, “One of the key issues government is concerned with is the security of the country, this is aside economic issues. From where I operate, I see a lot of things concerning insecurity.
“Smuggling is one major source of insecurity. With the level of indolence on the part of smugglers, we are determined to deal with the problem, no matter the amount of money being moved around by those involved or blackmail.
“If it is in the interest of neighbouring countries to have all these dangerous items transit their territories into Nigeria, then it is in our national interest to shut our borders. The ongoing operation swift has been very successful.”