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Helicopter Drama: Seized Aircraft Bought by Amaechi, Says Wike

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  • Seized Aircraft Bought by Amaechi

Contrary to the claims by the Nigeria Customs Service that the two Bell 412 helicopters handed over to the Nigerian Air Force on Friday in Lagos were imported by yet-to-be-identified importers, investigations have shown that the aircraft were actually ordered for by the Rivers State Government when Rotimi Amaechi was governor.

It was also gathered on Saturday that the current governor of the state, Nyesom Wike, made series of requests for the release of the helicopters to Rivers when he assumed office.

This is coming just as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority declared that it was not notified before the helicopters were brought into Nigeria.

Documents sighted by our correspondents showed that in 2015, the state government wrote different letters to the NCS and the Federal Ministry of Finance requesting for the release of the helicopters.

The Rivers State Government requested for the release of the helicopters in a September 28, 2015 letter from the Office of the Governor and signed by Nyesom Wike, with reference number RVSG/GH/PRES/VOL.1/03, addressed to the Comptroller-General of the NCS, and had the title, ‘Request for provisional release of two Bell 412 helicopters imported by the Rivers State Government for security surveillance services.’

In the letter, the state government said, “We are all aware of the serious security challenges in the country, part of which is the recurring vandalism of oil pipelines and installations in Rivers State, which to a large extent adversely affect the economy of the country.

“As part of measures to tackle this challenge, the Rivers State Government has imported two Bell 412 helicopters into the country for aerial monitoring and security surveillance of oil and gas pipelines and other facilities in the state.”

It stated that the helicopters were fully equipped with night vision capabilities, camera and armoured plating, as well as other sensitive accessories for day and night operations, adding that the aircraft were “among the transactions inherited from the previous administration.”

The state government stated that the aircraft were “duly imported based on extant import guidelines to which invoice and Form M were duly obtained.”

The letter further noted that the aircraft were at the time domiciled on the premises of SAHCOL Limited at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

It requested the NCS to release the helicopters “due to the high sensitivity of the equipment attached to them, and also to avoid unbearable demurrage while awaiting a response from the minister of finance on our application for duty waiver.”

The letter from the governor’s office added, “We undertake to make full duty payment in the event of a negative response to our pending application for waiver.”

The NCS replied the letter from the governor’s office in an October 7, 2015 letter that was addressed to the Rivers State governor, with reference number NCS/T&T/I&E/077/S.437, and signed by the Comptroller, Import and Exports, Jibrin M. for the Comptroller-General of Customs.

The NCS, in its reply, told the state government to pursue the issuance of the duty exemption certificate for the helicopters.

The letter, which was titled, ‘Re: Request for provisional release of two Bell 412 helicopters imported by the Rivers State Government for security surveillance services’, said, “Reference is made to your letter No. RVSG/GH/PRES/VOL.1/03 of 28th September, 2015 on the above subject matter.

“I am directed to notify you, in line with extant import guidelines, to pursue the issuance of the duty exemption certificate, or in the alternative, pay the appropriate duties and apply for duty refund after duty exemption is granted by the minister of finance.”

Wike wrote another letter dated December 13, 2015, addressed to the minister of finance with reference number RVSG/GH/PRES/VOL1/05, which was titled, ‘Request for Revalidation of expired certificate waiver of import duty, VAT, and all related taxes in respect of the importation of two units of Bell 412 security surveillance helicopters.’

In the letter, the governor stated that in 2013, the minister granted the state waivers for the importation of Bombardier aircraft (Global Vision 5000 Series), monorail equipment and two units of Bell 412 surveillance helicopters.

He said, “However, the honourable minister is invited to note that the waivers earlier granted on the importation of the two helicopters are yet to be utilised by the state government due to unforeseen circumstances occasioned by the inability of the previous administration to import the helicopters into the country.”

The governor urged the minister to consider and approve the revalidation of the expired certificate in waiver of import duty, VAT and all other taxes in connection with the importance of the two units of the Bell 412 helicopters.

But in another letter from the Office of the National Security Adviser, dated November 3, 2016, signed by the Brigadier-General, AT Famadewa, for the NSA, and copied to the governor of Rivers State, as well as the comptroller-general of Customs, which was addressed to the Chief of the Air Staff, the NSA gave approval for the NAF to take custody of the helicopters.

The NSA, in the letter with reference number NSA/452/S and titled, ‘Re: Request for approval to take custody and manage two Bell 412 helicopters’, however, said the approval was based on the request of the state.

The letter from the NSA’s office stated, “I am directed to respectfully refer to your correspondence NA/905/D/CAS dated April 21, 2016 on subject. I am to convey the National Security Adviser’s approval for NAF to take custody and manage the two Bell 412 helicopters as requested by Rivers State government.”

Helicopters didn’t follow civil import procedure — NCAA

Explaining the standard procedure needed before the importation of an aircraft for civil operations in Nigeria, the spokesperson of the NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, said, “To bring a civil aircraft in, NCAA will be notified and a pre-shipment flight inspection carried out. If found suitable, then it will be cleared to be brought in.

“On arrival, a comprehensive audit will still be carried out on it, especially those for commercial use.”

Adurogboye, however, stated that the authority did not carry out any of the above processes on the controversial helicopters.

‘Why helicopters were not released to Amaechi’

One of our correspondents gathered that the then Rotimi Amaechi administration had ordered for the helicopters about two years into his tenure.

However, it was learnt that when the helicopters, which were said to have been built from scratch, were already in the United States of America, the relationship between Amaechi and then President Goodluck Jonathan had turned sour.

Because of this, it was learnt that the Amaechi administration was not cleared to bring the two helicopters into the country.

A source, who was part of the administration, said the aircraft were abandoned at the airport in the US.

The former Chief Press Secretary to Amaechi, Mr. David Iyofor, said through a text message that the two armoured helicopters belonged to the Rivers State Government, and insisted that all enquiries about the helicopters should be directed to the state government.

But the NCS on Saturday said it was still searching for those that imported the two helicopters that were seized and handed over to the NAF on Friday.

The acting Public Relations Officer, NCS, Joseph Attah, said no one had come forward to claim ownership of the helicopter.

He said, “Investigation into the siezed aircraft is still ongoing. You know that when something is siezed by customs and that item is something that can be auctioned, then it is auctioned.

“But in this case, the helicopter is something that is useful to the nation and so, it was given to the Air Force.

“But despite the fact that it has been handed over to the Air Force, we are still conducting our investigations.”

Wike reacts

Wike, on Saturday, however disagreed with the Customs.

He explained that he had officially written to Buhari, asking that the armoured helicopters be handed over to the NAF and wondered why the NCS claimed that the items were seized.

The governor added that he wrote the letter following the high duty charged for the items and the refusal of the current administration to grant Rivers the waiver to clear the two armoured helicopters.

Wike’s position was contained in a statement issued by his Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, on Saturday.

The governor spoke during an interview with editors of The Sun at the Government House in Port Harcourt.

The governor said, “These helicopters were imported by the previous administration. When I assumed office, we wrote to the Federal Government that it was strictly for security use. What am I going to use armoured helicopters for?

“In any case, where will the Rivers State Government get money at this time to import armoured helicopters? The previous administration imported it because they had the money.

“I went to the Federal Government to give me a waiver to clear the helicopters, but the Federal Government refused. I wrote a letter to the president and assured him that the helicopters are meant for security purposes, so it should be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.”

Speaking further, he said, “I am surprised that they have started propaganda and political falsehood on the said armoured 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 had done well when I wrote the letter to the President.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Nigeria Immigration Service Reopens Portal With New Passport Application and Payment Process

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The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced the reopening of its passport application and payment portal.

The assistant comptroller of immigration, Mr Amos Okpu announced in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

In the statement, Mr Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of the service, said the portal became effective for new applications from 12 midnight on Tuesday.

Babandede further said that the portal would allow eligible applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of passports of their choice.

Mr Muhammad Babandede explained that with the reopening of the portal, a new passport application and payment regime had begun.

The statement in full:

“The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CGI), Muhammad Babandede MFR, has announced the reopening of the Passport application and payment portal effective 8th June 2021 by 12 midnight to allow eligible Passport applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of Passports of their choice.

The Passport portal was closed following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on the 17th of May, 2021to afford the Service the opportunity to clear all backlogs of applications that have piled up across Issuing Centres in the past few months.

With the reopening of the portal, a new Passport application and payment regime have commenced. Under the new Passport regime;

Applications and payments for Passport services shall be made through the Service website www.immigration.gov.ng;

  • applicants are expected to visit the portal to apply and upload their support documents for vetting and processing;
  • a chat room facility to guide applicants through the application and payment process has been provided on the portal;
  • upon successful applications, applicants shall make their online booking interview/enrollment appointment on any day, time and location they consider convenient;
  • that the new timeline for Passport production and issuance after a successful enrollment at the selected Issuing Centre shall be six weeks for Fresh applications and three weeks for Re-issue (Renewal applications);
  • that no applicant who is yet to make an online application and payment shall be allowed into any of the Passport Issuing Centres for Passport processing;
  • applicants will be contacted through email and phone number they provided during application when their Passports are ready;
  • a helpline with the number 08021819988 has been provided for feedback mechanism on any challenges.

The Comptroller General, Muhammad Babandede MFR wishes to use this medium to call on Nigerians and indeed Passport applicants to avoid patronizing touts as the entire process has been made seamless for effective and efficient service delivery. He warned Passport racketeers to desist from acts capable of undermining the reform efforts to avoid very strict sanctions.

Signed AMOS OKPU MNIPR
ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER OF IMMIGRATION
SERVICE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER
For: COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF IMMIGRATION 8TH JUNE, 2021″

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INEC To Publish The List Of New Polling Units Next Week

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to publish a comprehensive list of its new polling units across the nation next week.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja.

Yakubu was speaking at the formal handing over of a new state of the art fire truck, deployed to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja by the Federal Fire Service (FFS).

He said that details of the locations of its registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration for resumption of nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) would be made available in the second week of May.

He expressed appreciation of the commission to the FFS and all security agencies for the demonstration of their support to protecting INEC facilities

He said that the support was coming on the eve of the resumption of the CVR nationwide in the next three weeks.

“We earlier assured Nigerians that we shall conclude work on the expansion of voter access to polling units and make the new polling units available to citizens ahead of the CVR exercise.

“I am glad to report that we have accomplished this task for the first time in 25 years.

“A comprehensive list of the new polling units will be published next week.

“Similarly, details of the locations of the registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration will also be made available after a series of regular consultative meetings with stakeholders next week,” Yakubu said.

He said that as a member of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) FFS had been as concerned as other security agencies about the recent attacks on our offices across the country.

“This is particularly so because out of the 42 attacks on our facilities nationwide, 18 incidents resulted from arson and three more by a combination of arson and vandalisation.”

Yakubu recalled that concerned by those incidents, the commission convened an emergency meeting of ICCES last week of April, where the security agencies renewed their determination to collaborate more with the commission.

According to him, they pledged to assist the commission address the challenge beyond the routine protection of INEC assets and the security of its officials, voters, observers, the media, candidates and their agents during elections.

“On its part, the Federal Fire Service offered to deploy an additional state-of-the-art fire engine to the INEC headquarters to complement the two existing trucks.

“At the same time, it directed its state offices to take additional protective measures around other INEC facilities nationwide.

“Today’s inauguration of the new fire engine is another affirmation of the support to the commission from the FFS whose personnel, already deployed permanently to the commission

“The personnel will continue to operate and maintain the fire engines and other firefighting equipment installed by INEC,” Yakubu said.

Speaking earlier, the Controller-General (CG) of FFS, Alhaji Liman Ibrahim said the deployment of the firefighting truck was premised on recent fire attacks on INEC offices in different parts of the country.

Ibrahim, represented by the Assistant Controller-General of the service, Mr Samson Karebo, said the deployed truck would serve as fire cover for the premises of INEC headquarters and the entire Maitama vicinity of Abuja.

“The FFS is taking this step as a proactive measure to protect our critical infrastructure and help to protect our economy by forming synergy with all stakeholders in protecting our environments.

“Our center is focused on bringing firefighting operations to every part of the country as part of our statutory duties by having a presence in virtually every state in Nigeria

“The FFS will very soon be moving into all senatorial headquarters in the country. That is how we want to operate for now so that we can touch every corner of this country,” Ibrahim said.

He called for the cooperation of all for the service to better serve the nation by not molesting FFS staff in the line of duty.

In his remarks, the National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, who is also Co-Chair of ICCES, described the deployment of the truck as a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to sustain Nigeria’s democracy and address insecurity.

Monguno said that the gesture also symbolised commitment to a clear affirmation of Buhari toward protecting institutions of government, toward securing their property, toward fighting acts of irresponsibility, vandalisation and outright criminality.

“The President is determined as much as he can within the confines of legality to suppress any kind of criminality and destruction of public property.

“This is something that he is determined to do regardless of whatever the challenges are.

“He will apply all the resources in his disposal in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to ensure the wider Nigerian society is safe, stable and is allowed to carry out its legitimate undertaking, free from any act of insecurity,” he said

Monguno urged all other security agencies not to relent in ensuring that they continued to protect lives and property.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba pledged commitment to security agencies to work with INEC and protect INEC’s facilities, citizens’ life and property.

Also at the occasion was the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Director of Joint Services, Mr Peter Obodo; as well as the representative of Director-General, Directorate of State Services, Tony Adikweruka.

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Recovered Assets: Ad-hoch Committee Gives Emefiele, Others 72 Hours Ultimatum

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House of representatives

The House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, investigating recovered assets, has given the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, 72 hours to appear before it.

The committee also issued same ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, and the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh.

The summon was issued on Monday, after Mr Emefiele and the others failed to appear before the committee.

The government officials had sent representatives, but the committee chairman, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), said they failed to forward letters to that effect.

He said allowing representatives without a proper letter of introduction would be akin to allowing “impersonators.”

You are indirectly insulting the House of Representatives. You are undermining the House of Representatives,” an angry Mr Adeogun said.

Moving a motion to give the agencies 72hours to appear before the committee, Ibrahim Isiaka (APC, Ogun), said the agencies created by Acts of the parliament “should not be undermining the parliament”.

The motion was unanimously adopted by the committee.

Mr Isiaka suggested that the House should shut down its activities if the agencies fail to appear before them.

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