Helicopters allegedly imported by Rivers State government
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) command at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport has handed over to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) two Bell helicopters allegedly bought by the Rivers State government under the administration of Rotimi Amaechi.
Addressing journalists in Lagos, the customs area controller, Mr. Frank Allanah disclosed that the duty paid value of the two helicopters and other accessories is over N9, 757, 135, 240.86.
He also said the helicopters arrived at the airport as a consignment with Airway Bill Number 17232444403.
“The unknown importer could not produce end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) an act which contravenes section 36 (2) Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004. Consequently seizure was effected on November 7, 2016 in line with section 46 (b) of CEMA,” he said.
He added that the choppers were kept at the Skyways Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) shed pending fulfillment of all legal requirements for the importation.
Upon examination, Allanah said the consignment was found to have contained two civil models 412 EP of serial numbers 36608 and 36606 Bell Helicopters respectively in standard configuration and 23 packages said to contain their accessories weighing eleven thousand four hundred and seventy five kilogrammes (11,075 kilogrames).
Giving further insight into the seized choppers, he said all legal issues were considered before the NCS carried out the exercise.
Speaking during the hand over, the chief of air staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said the two helicopters and accessories will be taken to NAF hangar at the Lagos Airport for full examination in collaboration with customs officials.
He described the handover as a milestone because the configuration of the aircraft is fitted for military combat operations.
He said presidential approval for the release of the two helicopters to NAF will assist in the war against insurgency and internal security engagement.
News Gazette learnt that the choppers which arrived in November 2016 were bought by the Rivers State government in the twilight of Amaechi’s administration.
Industry sources hinted that the transaction may not have been documented thereby forcing the authorities to hand them over to NAF.
An official of SAHCOL who craved anonymity told News Gazette that the company had earlier written to the Rivers State government about the choppers but the new administration said it was not ready to pay the duty value of the consignment since there was nothing in the handover note suggesting that the previous administration was into such a deal.