The Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has seized two civil models Bell Helicopters brought into the country by unknown importers.
The Service immediately handed over the helicopters to the Nigerian Air Force for use in the fight against insurgency.
The NCS accused the importers of the said items of failure to produce the end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser ( NSA), thus contravening Section 36 (2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act.
Addressing newsmen at the command’s office at the Lagos Airport yesterday, the Customs Area Controller, Frank Allanah, said the duty value of the two helicopters and other accessories was about N9,757,135,240.86.
He said the helicopters were flown into the country as a consignment with Airway Bill Number 17232444403 through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
The choppers, he said, were detained at the Skyways Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) shed, pending the fulfillment of all the legal requirements for the importation .
He said upon examination, the consignment was found to contain 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 11,075 kilogrammes.
Ugo said: “The unknown importer 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 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.”
Giving further insight into the seized choppers, he said all legal issues were considered before the Customs Authorities carried out the exercise.
He said the chopper will be useful to the Nigerian Air Force in the fight against insurgency as the chopper were specially designed for such operations.
Speaking during the handover of the choppers, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the two Bell choppers and accessories would 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, because the configuration of the aircraft is fitted for military combat operations.
He said the presidential approval for the release of the two helicopters to the Nigerian Air Force would help to fight the war against insurgency and internal security engagement.
Investigations however revealed that the two Bell Helicopters were imported by a state government in the South South in the twilight of a former administration in the state.
But industry sources hinted that the transactions might not have been documented, forcing the current administration in the state to concede that the choppers be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.
In a telephone interview, an official of SAHCOL said he could not confirm if the choppers were imported by a state government.
He said Customs reserves the right to seize any aircraft or imported item if the importer fails to show up for clearance and payment of necessary duty.
Ugo also disclosed yesterday that revenue totaling N55,505,499,945.35 was collected from January to December 2016 by “a highly dedicated work force” of the Customs Airport Command, surpassing the collection of 2015 which stood at N24,746,642,881.3 billion.
The increase in revenue collection, he said, is N12.8 billion above the previous year despite decline in cargo from 76.9 million tons in 2015 to 64.63 million tons in 2016.
The command, he said, made several seizures of elephant tusks, foreign currencies and other items.