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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.

Government

#EndSARS: Here is the Complete Speech of President Buhari

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Muhammadu Buhari

The Complete Speech of President Muhammadu Buhari

Following the Lekki Massacre, president Muhammadu Buhari delivered the much-awaited speech. However, the speech failed to touch on the massacre or the people affected, infuriating millions of Nigerian youths that have committed so much to the struggle and lost so much.

Below is the complete speech.

“Fellow Nigerians,

It has become necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the Security Chiefs.

As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.

On approving the termination of SARS I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.

Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.

The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a peace-maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors.

All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary.

Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.

The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens, is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.

On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the well being and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths, and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is:

a. paying 3-months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small- and medium- enterprises
b. paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission
c. giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans
d. guaranteeing market for the products of traders

These are in addition to many other initiatives such as:

a. Farmermoni,
b. Tradermoni,
c. Marketmoni,
d. N-Power,
e. N-Tech and
f. N-Agro.

No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done.

With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force.

The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.

In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers.

Let me at this point reaffirm the Federal Government’s commitment to preserving the unity of this country.

We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement.

We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens, are protected.

But remember that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence.

To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgement and making hasty pronouncements.

In the circumstances, I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy.

For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.

I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions.

Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.

And I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law-abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect.

Let me pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.

I would like to thank those State Governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint.

I also thank youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands.

This government respects and will continue to respect all the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people, but it will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of our nation.

Thank you all. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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Passport, Visa Trend as Nigerian Youths Look to Move Out En masse Following Disappointing Presidential Speech

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Passport and Visa Trend on Twitter Following Disappointing Presidential Speech

Nigerian youths have started looking for a way to exit the country following a disappointing Presidential speech after security operatives opened fire on peaceful protesters on October 20, 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria.

The youths, who have been protesting and demanding an end to the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), had assembled at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 to sustain their protest before the commencement of a 24-hour curfew declared by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

However, shortly after they sang the national anthem, they were attacked by security operatives in one of the goriest scenes ever witnessed in the country. Despite calls for prosecution of perpetrators by both international and local civil rights organisations, the Federal Government has denied the occurrence even when Sanwo-Olu had earlier said forces beyond his control had made dark notes of history in the state.

This coupled with President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to acknowledge the killings and occurrence in his speech on Thursday, negatively affected the youths that for the first time went all out to demand a change in one voice.

Feeling dejected with the situation and most importantly hopeless about the future, they were forced to start seeking an exit from an uncertain future to a more predictable economy govern by sane people.

Since the failed presidential speech, Passport and Visa have been trending on Twitter as Nigerian youths now shift their focus to traveling out of Nigeria, a nation expected to plunge into the second economic recession in four years in the third quarter under President Muhammadu Buhari.

The inflation rate increased by 13.71 percent in September with the nation’s unemployment rate at 27.1 percent or 21.8 million amid rising economic uncertainties, weak foreign reserves and a currency that has been devalued twice this year.

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#EndSARS Protesters Kill as Security Operatives Open Fire at Lekki Toll Gate

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Security Operatives Open Fire on #EndSARS Protesters at Lekki Toll Gate

Nigerian security operatives deployed to Lekki Toll Gate following the announcement of a 24-hour curfew by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

According to numerous accounts of protesters, the army started shooting even before the curfew announced to commence by 9 pm on Tuesday.

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