Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) has launched two gunboats to strengthen its anti-smuggling activities on the nation’s waters.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) disclosed at the commissioning ceremony in Lagos where he also said that Nigeria’s quest for non-oil revenue is largely dependent on the Service to fight smuggling and bring it to the barest minimum.
According to Ali, experience has shown that whenever smugglers face stiff enforcement by Customs 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 the year 2014.
“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 sea.”
He explained that the commissioning of the two seagoing vessels, 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 the water to smuggle in contraband.
The Nigeria Customs Service Marine operatives can now sail to intersect 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, Easter Maritime, North western marine and North Eastern marine Command. It is, therefore, the resolve of management that smugglers find no space to operate either on land, air or sea.”
Also speaking at the event the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Mohammed Monguno said that the Federal Government would not bow to any form of blackmail as a result of the closure of its land borders.
The nation’s borders in four regions were partially shut down three weeks ago at the commencement of a joint security operations code name “Exercise Swift Response”.
The operation which has the Nigeria Customs Service as the lead agency also include the Armed Forces, Immigration and Para-Military service.
Mongono said that some neighbouring countries are already talking to the Federal Government on the issue.
The NSA who scored the taskforce high stated that the Federal Government was determined to give support to all security agency that would enable them to deal ruthlessly with all those involved in smuggling.
He explained that the government was determined to deal with all problems associated with the State of insecurity, adding that no amount of money nor blackmail can force the government to its knees.
“One of the key issues the 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. However, many tend to see the physical aspects which include insurgents, kidnapping, armed robber and a whole lot of others. But there are some that are invisible to the eyes. Smuggling is one major source of insecurity.
“We are determined to deal with the problem, no matter the amount of money being moved around by those involved or blackmail” he added.
The NSA pointed out that so many Nigerians have died as a result of the dangerous drugs and arms being smuggled, adding that the dangerous Items were brought into the country through the land borders.
“If it is in the interest of neighbouring countries to allow all these dangerous Items to transit their territories into Nigeria, then it is in our national interest to shut our borders. The ongoing operation swift has been very successful,” he added.