6 Cus­toms im­pound he­li­copters worth N4.2bn at La­gos air­port

Weekly Trust - - News - Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

Two Bell model he­li­copters brought into the coun­try by un­known per­sons were yes­ter­day im­pounded by the Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port (MMIA) Com­mand of Nige­rian Cus­toms Ser­vice (NCS). Unit price of the air­craft is about $7m.

The he­li­copters were im­ported with­out the end user cer­tifi­cate and let­ter of ap­proval by the Of­fice of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser (ONSA) in con­tra­ven­tion of Sec­tion 36 ( 2) of the Cus­toms and Ex­cise Man­age­ment Act (CEMA).

There is con­tro­versy over the own­er­ship of the he­li­copters which were kept at the Sky­ways Avi­a­tion Han­dling Com­pany Lim­ited (SAHCOL) shed in­side the air­port since Novem­ber 2016.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the air­craft must have been or­dered by the Rivers State gov­ern­ment. The Cus­toms im­pounded the he­li­copters since no­body came to claim them and pay the nec­es­sary du­ties amount­ing to over N9bn and yes­ter­day handed them over to the Nige­rian Air Force.

The Cus­toms Area Comptroller at the air­port, Mr. Frank Al­lanah, said the duty paid value of the two he­li­copters and other ac­ces­sories amounts to over N9.7bn. He said the he­li­copters were flown in as a con­sign­ment with air­way bill num­ber 17232444403 through the MMIA.

He said upon ex­am­i­na­tion, the con­sign­ment was found to con­tain two civil model he­li­copters 412 EP with se­rial num­bers 36608 and 36606 re­spec­tively in stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion and 23 pack­ages said to con­tain their ac­ces­sories weigh­ing 11,075 kilo­grammes.

“The un­known im­porter could not pro­duce the end user cer­tifi­cate from the of­fice of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser ( NSA), an act which con­tra­venes Sec­tion 36 (2) of the 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 of CEMA.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, all the le­gal is­sues were con­sid­ered be­fore the cus­toms au­thor­i­ties car­ried out the ex­er­cise. He added that the he­li­copters would be use­ful to the Nige­rian Air Force in the fight against in­sur­gency as they were spe­cially de­signed for such op­er­a­tions.

Speak­ing dur­ing the han­dover, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Mar­shal Sadique Abubakar, said the he­li­copters and ac­ces­sories will be taken to the Nige­rian Air Force han­gar at the La­gos air­port for full ex­am­i­na­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with cus­toms of­fi­cials. He de­scribed the han­dover as a mile­stone, say­ing the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the air­craft was fit­ted for mil­i­tary com­bat op­er­a­tions.

He said the pres­i­den­tial ap­proval for the re­lease of the two he­li­copters to the Nige­rian Air Force would as­sist in the war against in­sur­gency and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity en­gage­ments.

Bell He­li­copters, on its web­site said the Bell 412EP is a daily work­horse that re­li­ably per­forms in some of the most ex­treme cli­mates around the world ev­ery day. Its ex­pan­sive cabin pro­vides mul­ti­mis­sion flex­i­bil­ity while its wide open­ing 7.7 ft. doors eas­ily ac­com­mo­date fork­lift load­ings into a spa­cious 220 ft3 /6.2 m3 cabin. Along with its spa­cious cabin, the air­craft can be con­fig­ured in a va­ri­ety of ways to ac­com­mo­date up to 14 pas­sen­gers.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Com­modore Em­manuel Eze (left) and the Comptroller- Gen­eral of Cus­toms’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Deputy Comptroller Gen­eral Dan Ugo, dur­ing the hand­ing over to the Air Force of two bell se­cu­rity he­li­copters with ac­ces­sories in­ter­cepted by Nige­ria Cus­toms Ser­vice at the Mur­tala Muhammed Air­port, in La­gos yes­ter­day. At the back­ground is one of the im­pounded he­li­copters PHOTO: Bene­dict Uwalaka

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