Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has given his side of the story on how two Bell helicopters imported by the Rivers State government ended up being seized by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and handed over to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
Amaechi was the governor of the state when the helicopters were ordered.
A twist occurred when they arrived, he said.
He accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Nyesom Wike of blocking the government of Rivers State from taking possession of the helicopters.
In a statement by his media office, Amaechi said when he took over as Governor of Rivers State, criminals masquerading as militants, kidnappers and other elements were on the prowl in Rivers State.
Among measures to combat the menace was the purchase of the helicopters.
Based on recommendation of security experts, he said his administration bought the two Bell 412 security surveillance helicopters in collaboration with the Federal Government through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
“To show their support, the Federal government through the office of the NSA contributed $15million, about half of the total sum, towards the purchase of the helicopters. Also, the then former President Goodluck Jonathan administration granted waivers to the Rivers State government to purchase and import the helicopters,” Amaechi said.
The minister said trouble started many months later when the Jonathan administration allegedly frustrated attempts to take possession of the helicopters.
“It was obvious why the President Goodluck Jonathan administration acted the way it did and Nyesom Wike, the present Governor of Rivers State was an integral part, a major player in the whole conspiracy to block and prevent Rivers State government from taking possession of the helicopters.
Then, as a minister in President Jonathan’s cabinet, Wike inundated President Jonathan with fake stories of how then Governor Amaechi wanted to use the helicopters for Presidential campaigns against Jonathan, how Amaechi will use the helicopters to support President Jonathan’s opponents before and during the presidential elections and all sorts of concocted tales that created a false impression that the Amaechi government in Rivers State would use the helicopters against and to fight President Jonathan, and not to secure lives and property.
Wike then, was already nursing the ambition to run for the office of Governor of Rivers State. He didn’t care about the security of lives and property.
The helicopters were procured by the Amaechi administration to curb the wanton menace of criminals in the State (which has since worsened under Wike’s watch), but in his usual habit, Governor Wike has decided to abandon and dump the helicopters, because he does not care about the safety and security of lives and property in the State. Sad, very sad,”Amaechi said.
But Governor Nyesom Wike, in a counter statement by his media aide, Simeon Nwakaudu, said:
The immediate past Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, could not provide the people of Rivers State with good governance that was why he had to recourse to the purchase of Armoured Helicopters.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has no need for Armoured helicopters because he has provided the good people of Rivers State with good governance and they are happy with him.
In any case, Rivers State is not at war with any country, hence there is no need for armoured helicopters.
Governor Wike will continue to deliver good governance to the Rivers people. This has led to the improvement of security, despite the evil political machinations of Amaechi and his cohorts.
Customs had on Friday, said it had intercepted two helicopters and 23 consignments of accessories illegally imported into the country.
Dan Ugo, a Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, told newsmen in Lagos that the two helicopters and accessories, valued at N9.7 billion, were impounded at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport.
“The consignment was detained at SAHCOL cargo shed. Upon examination, the consignment was found to contain two civil models of Bell Helicopters 412 EP, with serial numbers 36608 and 36606. The consignment also contains 23 packages of accessories, weighing 11,475kg,” the customs boss said.
He said that the two helicopters and other accessories were seized because the importer could not provide End-User Certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Ugo said that the importer had contravened Section 36 (2) of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
According to him, the consignment, which was impounded on November 7, 2016, had a Duty Paid Value of N9, 757,135,240.86.
“This equipment was seized because the importer contravened the Customs Act. The Comptroller General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, in appreciation of the roles of Air Force has directed that the equipment should be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force. When we make seizures, we go through legal process by approaching the court of competent jurisdiction to file for condemnation and forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria, which had been done. This falls within the purview of the Nigerian Air Force which will put it to use maximally to protect us as a nation,’’ Ugo said.
Air Commodore Hyacinth Eze received the consignment on behalf of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
Eze commended the Customs for a job well-done.
“The handing over of these helicopters by Nigerian Customs would go a long way to assist the force,’’ he said.
Eze said that the actual physical examination of the consignment would be done at Nigerian Air Force Base.
More photos of the helicopters: