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
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 multi-mission 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.