- 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, 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.”
University Of Ibadan (UI) Goes Digital, Releases Timetable for Virtual Academic Session
University of Ibadan (UI) on Friday announced it is going ahead with resumption on February 20 despite the second wave of COVID-19.
In a statement released by the school, the First Semester of the 2020/2021 academic session will commence virtually on February 20, 2021.
The virtual academic session will last for 13 straight weeks and end on Friday May 12, 2021, while the matriculation ceremony will hold on Tuesday March 16, 2021.
The University of Ibadan also scheduled one week for the Finalization of Continuous Assessment, to begin from Mon. 17 May and ends Friday 21 May.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases has compelled the Senate to approve the virtual academic session in an effort to ensure the tertiary institution abides by the protocols established by the Federal Government to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“It, therefore, agreed that the 2020/2021 First Semester lectures will be delivered online. In this regard, students will not be accommodated on campus,” a statement from the school said.
“Senate also approved the cancellation of the 2019/2020 session. The next session is, therefore, renamed 2020/2021 Academic Session. Consequently, students who have been admitted for the 2019/2020 session will now be regarded as the 2020/2021 intakes.
“Kindly note that online opening of Registration Portal and Orientation Programme for the 2020/2021 intakes may commence ahead of the Sat 20/02/21 date indicated above,” the statement said.
House of Representatives Impeached Trump Over Capitol Invasion
The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached President Trump for the second time after instigating the US Capitol invasion.
Led by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, 232 representatives, including 10 Republicans, voted to impeach the outgoing president against 197 that voted for him to remain in the office for the next six days when he would handover to the president-elect, Joe Biden.
The ten Republicans were Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the party’s No. 3 leader in the House; Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington; John Katko of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Fred Upton of Michigan; Dan Newhouse of Washington; Peter Meijer of Michigan; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; David Valadao of California; and Tom Rice of South Carolina.
Speaking before the vote, Pelosi said “a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.”
“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” she said, adding later, “It gives me no pleasure to say this — it breaks my heart.”
Republicans, who unanimously stood behind president Trump in 2019 during his first impeachment, were divided this time over the attack on Capitol.
A Republican representative from California, Kevin McCarthy, said “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” Mr. McCarthy said. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
US Congress Declares Joe Biden as The 46th President of The United States After Trump Mob Left
The joint congress of the United States on Thursday, January 7, 2021 certified Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States following President Trump’s mob action that disrupted the congress joint proceeding on Wednesday.
After ordering his followers to disrupt proceedings on Wednesday, President Trump later announced that there will be an orderly transition on January 20.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement issued by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino.
“I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!” Trump added.
While the certification was just a mere formality as Biden had secured enough electoral college votes (270) required to clinch the world’s most powerful seat, the refusal of Donald Trump to accept the results of the November 2020 election made the session a keenly watched, especially after Trump mob disrupted a joint session of the Senate.
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