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Wike: Stop Propaganda! Rivers Ceded ‘Impounded’ Helicopters to NAF

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has faulted the claim by the Nigerian Customs Service that the owner of the two helicopters it claimed were impounded and handed over to the Nigerian Air Force were unknown, insisting that the two helicopters were ordered by the state and that he personally suggested that they should be handed over to the Air Force.

The Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command of Nigerian Customs Service (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 subsection two, Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004.”

But Governor Wike disputed the claim at the weekend as he disclosed that he officially wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari asking that the two armoured 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 armoured 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.

The governor said that it was unfortunate that security agencies would resort to political propaganda and outright lies, when the facts of the two armoured helicopters were public knowledge.
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 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 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 “.

The governor added: “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 custom 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 “.

It will be recalled that the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, in December 2012 announced the purchase of two helicopters for security surveillance. The administration could however not take possession of the helicopters before the end of its tenure.

When THISDAY contacted Mr. Dave Iyofor, Amaechi’s media aide, last night, he said, “The helicopters belong to Rivers State Government, not Rotimi Amaechi. So, all enquiries about the helicopters should be directed to the Rivers State Government”.