Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said yesterday that he gave his backing to the federal government in handing over the two Bell helicopters imported by the Rivers State government to the Air Force.
The Customs Service announced on Friday that the helicopters were smuggled into the country by an unknown person who failed to produce end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in contravention of Section 36 ( 2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act.
The Customs Area Comptroller, Mr. Frank Allanah, put the import duty value of the two helicopters and their accessories at N9,757,135,240.86k.
He proceeded to hand them over to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at a ceremony at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.
However, Wike in a statement by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, in Port Harcourt said he officially wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari asking that the two helicopters which were bought by the immediate past administration in the state be handed over to the Air Force.
He explained that his decision was informed by the high import duty and the refusal of the federal authorities to grant the State a waiver to clear the choppers.
The governor said that it was unfortunate that security agencies would resort to political propaganda and outright lies, when the facts about the helicopters are in public domain.
His words: “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 assured him that the helicopters were meant for security purposes, they should be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.
”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 airforce. 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 have done well when I wrote the letter to the President.”