The two armoured Bell helicopters seized by Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and given to the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, were ordered by former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, when he was at the helms in Rivers State, an official has said.
His successor Nyesom Wike made this known on Saturday contradicting the claim of the NCS that the owner of the aircraft was not known.
Mr. Wike made the clarification in a statement released by his spokesman, Simeon Nwakaudu.
The governor said he officially wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to hand over the helicopters to the Air Force.
The governor said he took the step because of the high custom duties the helicopters attracted and the refusal of the Federal Government to grant waiver on the helicopters.
According to him: “These helicopters were imported by the immediate past administration; and when I assumed office, we wrote to the Federal Government that the helicopters were strictly for security use.
“I went to the Federal Government to give me waiver for us to clear the helicopters but they refused.
“Thereafter, I wrote to President Buhari to assure him that the helicopters are meant for security purpose and that it should be handed over to the Nigeria Air Force.
“We stated that we cannot pay the custom duties because the helicopters are not for commercial use; but to monitor the creeks and track criminals.
“In any case, where will the Rivers Government get money at this time to import armoured helicopters to which the previous administration imported because it had money (at the time).
“I’m surprised that they have started propaganda and political falsehood on the said armoured helicopters.
“What am I going to use armoured helicopters for; what kind of country are they turning Nigeria into?” he asked.
Mr. Wike said it was unfortunate that some security agencies would allegedly resort to political propaganda and outright lies when facts of the seized armoured helicopters were known.
He said it was shocking that NCS would turn around to claim that it impounded the helicopters rather than telling the truth.
He claimed that the chief of staff to the president commended the Rivers government when the letter was delivered to the president.
On Friday, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command of NCS handed over two civil model Bell helicopters imported into the country by ‘unknown persons’ to the NAF.
The Service said the aircraft were seized on November 7 2016.
It explained that the aircraft were handed over to NAF because of the failure of the yet-to-be-identified importers to produce end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser. The Customs said the action contravened the Customs and Excise Management Act.