The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has faulted claims by the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, that the owner of the two helicopters it claimed were impounded and handed over to the Nigerian Air Force, were unknown.
The Governor insisted that the two helicopters, were purchased by his predecessor (Rotimi Amaechi), and that he personally suggested that they should be handed over to the Air Force.
The Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command of the NCS, had last Friday claimed that it seized two Civil Model Bell Helicopters, imported into the country by unknown importers.
The Airport Customs Area Controller, Frank Allanah, who put the duty paid value of the two helicopters and other accessories at N9,757,135,240.86, had 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 (2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
However, Governor Wike, disputed the claim at the weekend, as he disclosed that he officially wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking that the two armored helicopters bought by the immediate past administration in the State, be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.
He explained that he wrote the letter following the high custom duty charged for the helicopters, and the refusal of the Federal Government to grant Rivers State Government, a waiver to clear the two armored helicopters.
A statement issued by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, said Wike responded to the claim in a media interview yesterday, in Port Harcourt.
He said: “These helicopters were imported by the immediate past administration. When I assumed office, we wrote to the Federal government, that it was strictly for security use. What am I going to use armored helicopters for?
“In any case, where will the Rivers State Government get money at this time to import armored helicopters. The previous administration imported it, because they had the money.
“I went to the Federal Government to give me a waiver for us to clear the helicopters, but the Federal Government refused. I wrote a letter to the President and to assure him that the helicopters are meant for security purposes, it should be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.
“I am surprised that they have started propaganda and political falsehood, on the said armored helicopters. What kind of country are they turning Nigeria into?
“We stated that we cannot pay the custom duties, because the helicopters are not for commercial use. They are to be used to monitor the creeks and track criminals.
“I wrote to the President, to give the helicopters to the Air Force. It is shocking that the customs would turn around to claim that they impounded the helicopters. The Chief of Staff to the President, admitted that I have done well, when I wrote the letter to the President”. He said