NAVAL CHIEF EXPOSES ISLAND WHERE ARMS SMUGGLING INTO NIGERIA FLOURISHES.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas has raised an alarm that one of the sources of small and dangerous arms smuggling into the country, which exacerbates criminality and even insurgency, was an island located close to Badagry in Lagos state, which the Nigerian Customs Service has the right to police and contain.
The CNS made the disclosure just as the Comptroller General of Customs revealed that now that the nation was facing economic and financial difficulty, it should realize that any time a public holiday was declared in Nigeria (and they are so many), the Customs loses N1,5billion revenue.
Admiral Ibas made the stunning revelation to Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) who obviously from his reaction seemed unaware and surprised of such a development.
Admiral Ibas who was speaking when the Customs CG paid a working visit to the Naval headquarters, said, “I want to call your attention to an Island somewhere off the coast of Badagry which is just by the Nigeria and Republic of Benin border at the Tongue Island.
“I employ you to consider that island as a Strategic Island to Nigeria and perhaps to consider emplacing your men there so that your operation covers that area because I know that is one area that smuggling of small arms can thrive.
On economic and other challenges facing the nation, Ibas said, “The challenges of this nation can only be addressed if all of us (security agencies) come together and this is a good beginning coming from you, because we want to believe that the bulk of the weapons that come into this country come in through our porous borders which we need to collectively police. Let me assure you that for us in the navy we are willing and able to support you when asked.
Earlier, Col. Hameed Ali said, ““As it is right now, I’m learning to be a customs officer, it’s so technical that I have decided to go back to school, I am reading now more than when I was in the university, I’m reading to digest and understand and lead”.
“When I took over the leadership of the Customs I asked who our strategic partners in the business are and I was told that certainly the Nigeria navy is one of the greatest strategic partner we have and certainly for us to be able to function well we need to assert the friendship between us and also strengthen the bond and synergy that has been existing so that together we can be sure of putting forward the best when it came to service.
“We in the customs recently acquired two marine boats, which I’m sure you are aware of. We will require your expertise in terms of running those boats and patrolling the waterside because that is what you have been doing all your life. Customs cannot claim expertise than you. We will request your assistance in that area.
“If we can get support in terms of training, in terms of even inspecting our boats and certifying that it is enough for the job.
“Secondly, we want training of our men as we go along, so that we have people that would know exactly what to do when they are in those waters and know exactly what to look for, so that if they see what they are looking for, they know how they go about arresting the situation.
“We will subordinate our people for training and retaining, we will request that some of your personnel come on board with them from time to time so that they how us practically terms how this thing should be done.
Continuing Col Ali said, “It’s unfortunate that our Marine Command is depleted. The few ones that are trained have been retired. We are now in a state that we really need to train these people; we can only have that from you if you oblige us. There are young talented people that I am sure they will be trained for them to effectively do their job.
“We realize that resources is a problem to all of us, we are today one of the major revenue collectors but because oil is dwindling, certainly we cannot depend on oil alone. It is left for Customs to be able to meet its target. We need trade facilitation, which now means that our water ways must be accessible to ships, our waterways must be accessible to traders who want to bring in goods, and it must be accessible to investors who want to bring in their technical knowhow.
“Part of our job on trade certification is dependent on the navy, the more we get the more likely our revenue rises.
He revealed that “Any day Nigeria declares public holiday we lose money, in practical terms the customs, our ports generates about 1 billion to N1.5 billion a day, so any day they say public holiday that N1.5 billion is gone. And Nigerians love holiday, if Christmas falls on Saturday we will say we want to have Monday as holiday but to us it’s a pain because we are now looking at it in terms of raw cash.
“I also want to seize this opportunity to propose a forum where the armed forces and the paramilitary will create a platform where we can interact from time to time at the apex and also middle level so that anything that comes up we will quickly digest it and know who specifically should do it, which makes it easier to accomplish our tasks.
“Today’s threats are both internal and external, cattle rustling now have become a big phenomenon, and smuggling too is a big issue.”