BY INNOCENT OROK
The closure of all Nigerian land borders is seems to have impacted positively on the economy by the policy makers, especially the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), but findings have revealed that the Nigerian waterways were not captured in the “Operation Swift Response” exercise.
Our investigations and monitoring of the over one month partial border closure exercise reveals that why the Nigerian Navy in its primary function is overseeing the high seas during the Operation , the creeks, lagoons and the other waterways are not left open, as such smugglers have found safe haven in these routes.
Our source from the marine command of the Nigeria Customs Service who confided with our Correspondent said the Marine Commands of the Customs were not included in the border closure exercise as such pressure now is on the waterways.
The source lamented how the Unit is having sleepless night as most operators from the land borders have turn to the unmanned waterways to carryout their activities.
” I must confess to you, we are not sleeping, as you know, we don’t have boats, and now the Customs marine command was not included in the “Operation Swift Response” border closure exercise, so the pressure is on us now. Journalist, if no one will talk, I will talk, help us tell the authorities that smugglers have now turn their trade to the waterways since the closure of the land borders. We are doing our best, but as we are not involved in the exercise, we are not equipped, we are not motivated as such there is little we can do”.
The NCS has four Marine Commands namely Western Marine Command, Eastern Marine Command, North Western Marine Command and North Eastern Marine Command.
All these commands have no functional boats to patrol the waterways.
The Service recently launched its two sea going vessels “Customs Pride and Group of Nine”.
The vessels which were purchased in 2014 by the Dikko Abdullahi’s administration has been lying idle at the Naval Dockyard until when it was launched few weeks ago by the National Security Adviser, Major General Mohammed Mongonu (rtd).
The vessels have since not been deployed into the waterways, three weeks after commissioning .
Another source also hinted our Correspondent that the Customs with its lean resources may not be able to maintain and deploy the vessels into the sea as he put the cost of maitainaace and Manning of the vessels to run into millions of Naira on a daily basis.
When asked why the Customs marine commands were not involved in the partial border closure exercise. He said “How can you involved a lame, non -equipped unit in such a highly technical operational exercise . A Unit that does not have the required Tact’s and Force, or you want the world to know the lame nature of the Marine Commands of the NCS.
When contacted, the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS , DC Joseph Attah confirmed that the Nigerian Navy was captured in the partial border closure operations as the agency on water.
Since Nigeria land borders were partially shut down over a month ago, some section of the economy has suffered inactive business activities.
Importers and exporters have claimed that over 900 trucks of goods have been stranded at Seme border alone, most of them perishable goods.
The exercise has also jack- up the prices of food items especially rice and frozen poultry products of which most of them comes from the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and Chad.
The operation code named ” Operation Swift Response ” which was targeted at mopping up bandits was initially planned to last for only one month, but has since been extended indefinitely .
The exercise is undertaken by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and involves all the military and Para -military services.