Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cessna Citation CJ4, 5N-DI: Curbing Smuggling With Customs State-Of-The-Art Surveillance Jet (Nigeria)

Tue, 18/09/2012 - 4:46am | JULIET ALOHAN 
Customs Focus  

Three months after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N1.7 billion for the acquisition of a surveillance jet for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the aircraft has been commissioned in Abuja.

The urgent need to effectively cover the borders and protect it against the influx of dangerous and harmful substances, prompted the NCS to waste no time in ensuring the delivery of the jet. The aircraft is expected to help boost surveillance and spot illegal activities which could be difficult for officers on the ground to detect.

The aircraft, a Cessna Citation CJ4, with registration number 5N-DIA, which was built in the United States of America (USA), was commissioned by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently, at the domestic wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The jet is equipped with a state-of-art gadgets incorporated to suit the anti-smuggling need of Customs and can fly at 45,000 altitudes. It is also equipped with two engines and has the capability to fly on one engine in the case of an emergency, and its radar has the capability to pick signals at 1,000 kilometres distance.

During the commissioning, Okonjo-Iweala, congratulated the Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, for the timely delivery of the jet, noting that the jet would further boost efforts to provide more effective surveillance of the borders and ensure national security.

She said: “We have long wanted to enhance the capability of the Customs to increase surveillance on borders and sea. There’s been a combination of measures to enhance their performance on land and sea by also acquiring boats.

“By doing this, our target is three pronged, which is to increase security, enhance and facilitate trade and strengthen revenue drive, by tackling all the factors posing constraints,” the minister said.
She stressed that the aircraft was an investment for which the country expects good returns and urged the Customs Service to work harder to achieve better results for the country.

In his response, the Customs boss assured that the jet will be put into judicious use in-line with the purpose for which it was approved for acquisition by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“I want to assure you, honourable minister, that this aircraft will be put into good use. Customs will surprise you this year by recording improved revenue,” Dikko stated.

Acquisition of the jet was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the sum of N1.7 billion in May this year.

Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who disclosed the approval to journalists after the FEC meeting, said that the aircraft acquisition was aimed at facilitating effective surveillance and management of the country’s borders to deal with economic sabotage and other cross-border crimes.

Maku had said that the aircraft, a Cessna Citation CJ4, would be fitted with surveillance equipment, photographic and communication gadgets for detection and nipping-in-the-bud activities of smugglers.

Speaking in the same vein, the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, said the need to curb the activities of smugglers prompted the ministry to present the memo for the procurement of the aircraft on behalf of the Customs Service.

He said that the purchase of the aircraft would go a long way to curb smuggling and block the loopholes being used by economic saboteurs.

Ngama further explained that the memo for the acquisition of the aircraft was raised because the efforts of Customs officers on ground could only be successful if they had air coverage. “That is why we brought the memo to acquire this aircraft which is equipped with satellite communication equipment that can actually survey the border unseen from the ground.

“It can also communicate with the men on ground to tell them that in this area or that area we can see illegal movements of vehicles. We have defined points, where the Customs men can actually monitor movements across our borders, but Nigeria is very big, you cannot have our Custom men at each point of the border. Therefore, the air coverage is actually a strategic move to ensure their effectiveness.”

In a similar development, the federal government had also in May this year, approved N3 billion for the procurement of two high-speed patrol boats for the Customs marine operations. The boats are also to be used to check the activities of smugglers in Nigeria’s water ways.

Since the coming on board of the Dikko led-management, the NCS has remained committed to strategies and policies geared to curb smuggling and reduce it to an insignificant level. These strategies have been successfully achieved with the good support the Service is getting from the federal government.

The Service has rolled out various strategies which include the deployment of hi-tech in a bid to reduce smuggling, block revenue leakages and corrupt practices by reducing human contact in the entire export, import chain. These efforts are already yielding positive results, especially in the area of revenue collection which has progressively increased from the inherited monthly N30 billion to about N100 billion presently.


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