The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the purchase of a N1.73 billion Cessna Citation surveillance aircraft for the Nigeria Customs Service, to boost border patrol capabilities of the Service.

Briefing after the weekly FEC meeting which was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, told journalists that the aircraft will aid Customs with aerial patrol of border routes that are not well established as major roads and are thus easily used by smugglers to bypass official customs border posts.

According to Maku, besides blocking some loopholes in government’s anti-smuggling strategies, the acquisition of the aircraft became imperative as current security challenges in the country were also traceable to cross-border movements.

Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, during the briefing also explained that the aircraft which is custom-built for the Nigeria Customs will be delivered within four months. He also said that the acquisition of the aircraft was imperative, considering the fact that Nigeria is very large and cannot have men of the customs service at every point.

FEC, during its meeting, also approved the immediate implementation of the African Union’s Green Wall Convention through the resuscitation of the National Council on Shelter-belt Afforestation, Erosion Control and Coastal Zones Management.

The Green Wall programme, which was conceived by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Ouagadougou, was proposed by Nigeria in 2005 during an AU summit in Burkina Faso, and adopted in 2006.

The programme is aimed at reclaiming forests and flora lost to deforestation in northern Nigeria and Africa, and also to avert or reduce “environmental wars” among communities arising from desert encroachment.

The programme will cut across from Senegal to Ethiopia, and in Nigeria, it will span 1,700 kilometres from Kebbi to Adamawa state.

The Green Wall will be implemented in the eleven frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

According to the Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafiya, who was present at the press briefing, the funding of the programme is a synergy between affected states and local governments with the federal government, the private sector, development partners as well as civil societies.

She explained that funds remaining from a N500 million Conservation Fund over the years will be used for the programme, although funds and participation from local and international donors as well private and corporate bodies were encouraged.

Mailafiya further explained that the project involved massive tree planting covering about 11 million hectares of land, to help sustain agriculture production and ensure self sufficiency for food.

She noted that a change of tactics is being used at this time to avoid the previous unhelpful and non-sustainable rituals of yearly ceremonial tree planting exercises by prominent people.

According to her, community-based participation will be adopted as states and local governments will be made stakeholders, to enable them become part owners of the programme so that they can help in ensuring its success.

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