The Nigeria Customs Service on Thursday inaugurated two seagoing gunboats to boost its anti-smuggling capacity on waters.
This followed the news that most of the smugglers that were prevented from entering Nigeria through the border by the joint security enforcement team had decided to bring in their goods by sea.
The boats, christened ‘Pride of Customs’ and ‘Group of Nine’ are expected to be deployed into deep-sea patrol, surveillance, interdiction and reconnaissance on water.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali(retd), disclosed at the inauguration that Nigeria’s quest for non-oil revenue was dependent on the NCS to fight smuggling and bring it to the barest minimum.
According to him, 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.
He said, “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 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 is named ‘Group of Nine’ while the other represents the ‘Customs Pride’ on the sea.”
He explained that the inauguration of the two seagoing vessels, well equipped with necessary firepower and other requirements for long-time water patrol, was in line with the ongoing repositioning of the service to effectively deliver on its mandate to the nation.
He said, “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 service now has four marine Commands, namely Western Marine, Eastern Marine, 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.”