There is subdued anger in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) over Federal Government’s decision to deny it ownership and possession of three aircraft.
According to findings by the source, the German-built Dornier 228 aircraft were designed specifically for aerial border patrol and other surveillance operations.
Highly placed sources, who spoke in confidence with New Telegraph on the development, said the platforms have the capacity to capture the smallest object on the ground. The need for effective border patrols, which include detection of smuggling and other cross-border crimes, were factored into the decision to procure the aircraft for the NIS.
It was gathered that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has since been granted approval to operate the platforms. One of the sources, who spoke in confidence with this newspaper, said already, Immigration officials at the Air Border Patrol Unit, Old Airport in Kawo, Kaduna State, were notified of the development last Thursday.
“The Nigeria Immigration Service has very wide mandates, one of which is to man the nation’s about 5,000 kilometres land borders. “But the Service is not happy at the moment, and the reason is that the Federal Government has chosen to transfer ownership of three aircraft originally belonging to the Service, to a security agency.
“The machines I’m talking about were solely designed by Germans for our Immigration,” the source said. Another source, who also spoke on similar condition, disclosed that the mission aircraft are fitted with surveillance cameras and with night vision.
He said: “The mission aircraft, as far as I know, are equipped with stabilised long range operating system (SLOS), stabilised thermal operating system (STOS), and 20 RC aerial cameras, which have the capacity of capturing images in absolute darkness, among other surveillance activities.”
While bemoaning the action, the source argued that “the development will adversely affect the effective patrol of borders, especially against the backdrop of suspected herdsmen’s attacks,and irregular migration activities.”
Documents sighted by New Telegraph indicated that the Air Border Patrol Unit was established in 1987, following the Maitatsine disturbance in Kano, in the early 1980s. Efforts to get official confirmation was not successful, as the Service’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sunday James, a Deputy Comptroller of Immigration (DCI), said he had no reaction.
The NAF, however, confirmed to our correspondent that the presidency had issued a directive for the aircraft to be handed over to the force. Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Olatokunbo Adesanya, said: “The aircraft in question, it’s not as if they are aircraft that are flying; these are aircraft that have been on the ground for like three or four years.
“Yes, the Presidency has actually approved that those aircraft – Dornier 228 – be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force. There is a directive from the Presidency for those aircraft to be handed over to the NAF.
“These aircraft they are talking about, they were being used for border patrol, and even when they were flying, the were being flown by Nigerian Air Force, for Immigration.”