Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said on Saturday that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) lied when it claimed to have seized two helicopters that were recently handed over to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
Wike disclosed with evidence that the two Bell 412 helicopters belonged to the Rivers government, having been bought by the immediate past administration of Rotimi Amaechi, who is now a minister in the federal cabinet.
The governor said it was he who wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari asking that the helicopters be handed over to the NAF. He did it because the state could not afford the high custom duty charged for the helicopters and the Buhari administration refused to grant a waiver to the state government to clear them.
The Customs Area Controller for the Lagos Airport, Frank Allanah, had told newsmen on Friday that the helicopters belonged to an “unknown importer” who “could not produce end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), an act which contravenes Section 36 Sub section 2 of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Consequently, a seizure was effected on November 7, 2016 in line with Section 46 of CEMA.”
However, in an interview with editors of The Sun newspaper on Saturday, Gov. Wike described the claims by the Customs Service as lies and propaganda.
“I wrote to the President to give the helicopters to the Airforce,” he said. “It is shocking that the Customs would turn around to claim that they inpounded the helicopters. The Chief of Staff to the President admitted that I have done well when I wrote the letter to the President.”
“I am surprised that they have started propaganda and political falsehood on the said armoured helicopters. What kind of country are they turning Nigeria into?
“We stated that we cannot pay the custom duties because the helicopters are not for commercial use. They are to be used to monitor the creeks and track criminals,” the governor said.
Wike said the chippers were bought for ariel monitoring and security surveillance of oil and gas pipelines in the state. He said they are equipped with night vision capabilities, cameras and armored planting and other sensitive accessories for day and night operations.
Gov. Wike shared some documents to buttress his points. See below: