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SEIZED HELICOPTERS | Comptroller faces Sack as Amaechi blames Goodluck Jonathan, Wike

 

Jolted by the starting rev­elations on the purport­ed “seizure” of two BELL helicopters imported by the Rivers State Government, the High Command of the Ni­geria Customs Service (NCS) has returned to the drawing board on how to handle the situation.

One of the options on the table of the NCS, is to sacrifice the Deputy Comp­troller of Customs for the Lagos Area Command, Mr. Frank Al­lanah, who brought the matter to the public domain.

The other option, it was fur­ther gathered, is to allow the is­sue to be politicised until it los­es steam.

Reliable sources in the NCS hinted that Customs’ High Command may suspend Alla­nah as a face-saving measure in the light of the controversy sparked off by announcing the seizure of the helicopters im­ported by the Rivers State Gov­ernment.

But in a swift reaction, the Human Rights Writers Associ­ation of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Sunday called for the sack of the Comptroller-General of NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) for “tell­ing lies” to the nation. HURIWA said that the lie brought untold embarrassment on Nigeria, for which Ali should go.

Allanah had on Friday told a bewildered nation that the service recently seized two armoured hel­icopters from an “unknown im­porter” and handed them to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).

According to a senior Cus­toms’ official, aside failing to pay the required duty, the “unknown importer” did not obtain clear­ance from the Office of the Na­tional Security Adviser (ONSA) to import the armoured aircraft.

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The official, who put a lie to the statement, said that the Customs’ High Command was thoroughly embarrassed by the turn of events and was battling to save face.

“With the damning letters supplied by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, the only op­tion is to sacrifice poor Allanah who was merely carrying out or­ders from above,” he said.

The NCS official said that the gaffe by the NCS was one of the several indicators of the inter-agency rivalry in the nation’s se­curity circle.

“The ONSA is working at cross-purposes with the Cus­toms Service, while the Police are in overdrive to outdo the Depart­ment of State Service (DSS). The implication is the several gaffes that have become the hallmark of the present administration,” he lamented.

Governor Wike had at the weekend raised the stakes when he punctured the position of the NCS.

The governor, who accused the Customs High Command of spawning “propaganda,” main­tained that he had informed Pres­ident Buhari in writing, of the in­tention of the state government to hand the helicopters ordered to be purchased by his predeces­sor and serving Minister of Trans­port Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, over to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).

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“It is shocking that the Cus­toms would turn around to claim that they impounded the helicop­ters,” Wike said.

The governor’s media aide, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, followed up by making public copies of correspondences between Wike, the Customs CG, the NSA, as well as the ones exchanged with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on the helicopters.

Interestingly, the twin-engine Bell 412 helicopters were import­ed by Amaechi.

“I am surprised that they have started propaganda and po­litical falsehood on the said ar­moured helicopters,” Wike said in Port Harcourt, stressing that the ONSA had three days before the purported seizure written a letter to Ali as well as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sad­ique Abubakar, conveying his ap­proval for the NAF to take charge of the helicopters.

In the letter dated 3rd No­vember, 2016 and captioned: “Re: Request for Approval to take Cus­tody and Manage two X BELL 412 Helicopters”, the NSA said that the approval was the fallout of an earlier letter by the Air Chief seeking such approval.

The NSA stated in the cor­respondence: “I am directed to respectfully refer to your corre­spondence: NA/905/D/CAS dat­ed 21st April, 2016 on subject,” wrote AT Famadewa, a Briga­dier-General in the ONSA’s of­fice. “I am to convey the Nation­al Security Adviser’s approval for NAF to take custody and man­age the two X BELL 412 helicop­ters as requested by Rivers State government.”

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Prior to the NSA’s approval, Governor Wike had written the Customs’ boss requesting for a “provisional release” of the heli­copters, promising to pay what­ever approved duty should the re­quest for waiver receive a negative nod from Adeosun.

In the letter dated 28th Sep­tember, 2016, Governor Wike told the Customs boss that, aside from duly obtaining Form ‘M’ for the importation of the heli­copters, the security equipment were at the mercy of being van­dalised, even though the gov­ernment and the people of Riv­ers State were in dire need of such surveillance equipment to tackle security challenges.

While requesting for a pro­visional release of the helicop­ters, Wike had pledged that, “we undertake to make full duty pay­ment in the event of a negative response to our pending appli­cation for waiver.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the issue, former Governor of Riv­ers State and current Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said that former pres­ident Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Nyesome Wike pre­vented and blocked the state from taking possession of the contro­versial helicopters.

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