Author: Mike Ochonma
Nigeria has taken over from Iraq, Afghanistan and Latin American countries as the world’s biggest importer of bullet proof (armoured) vehicles. It is estimated that about 30 percent of customers for armoured vehicles worldwide come from Nigeria.
In the last few years, manufacturers of armoured vehicles have exported an estimated 800 to 900 units to Nigeria, at the cost of more than N60 billion.
This was made known to BusinessDay during the launch of the Land Rover Defender (AVM) recently in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The British car maker said it will provide maintenance training for the Nigerian Defence forces or any institution that imports more than 200 units of Land Rover Defender Armoured Vehicle Modifier (AVM) vehicles.
In 2011 alone, Nigeria imported 600 and 1,000 armoured vehicles , coming behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Latin America. But recent figures however indicate that Nigeria has overtaken these countries on account of growing insecurity, as well as a seemingly love by the elite for amoured vans.
While the position of Iraq and Afghanistan as major importers of armoured vehicles is understandable because of the war situation in those regions, not a few have wondered why Nigeria should be number one in the world.
Gerald Gho, a security expert who spoke to our reporter on the thriving high profile business said that before and during the 2011 general elections for instance, politicians massively placed orders for heavily fortified anti-ballistic vehicles.
He said, “A lot of politicians and wealthy Nigerians embarked on high level security measures around their residences, particularly in the face of high-profile kidnappings that the country has witnessed.”
The high rate of small arms proliferation in the country may be another reason that armoured cars have become a common sight in Nigeria, he added.
It costs between N60million and N80million to armour an imported Sport Utility Vehicle, depending on the different levels of fortification, while the starting price to armour a saloon cars is put at N45million and above.
Saloon cars can also be fortified up to levels B6 (AK – 47 8M-16 Protection) and B7 Armour-piercing rifle protection” according to manufacturers sources.
Describing the position of Nigeria on armoured vehicle importation rating as no exaggeration, Huan Ka Kyui, a high ranking official of an armoured vehicle manufacturing company in Thailand, said that the first time his company received a request for an armoured car from a Nigerian was as far back as in 2003 and since then, the number has increased steadily.
John Graham, Brand Manager Armoured, Military and AVM (Armoured Vehicle Modifier) Programme for the Jaguar Land Rover group said Nigeria is the emerging market for anti-ballistic vehicles, adding that armoured vehicles are classified into Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) which can be used for military operations, Cash-In-Transit (C-I-T), ambulances, mobile clinics and passenger vehicles.
Special Purpose Vehicles are mostly purchased by banks and security operatives, while the passenger vehicles are used by individuals and government at various levels. These armoured cars and specialised vehicles customised from such brands as Jaguar, Mercedes Benz S-Class to the Cadillac Escalade and Toyota Land Cruiser, do not come cheap.
During the tenure of D.I. Abdullahi as the Director-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, importers of armoured vehicles were advised to obtain the End User Certificates (EUC). The EUC is a mandatory requirement for importation of Armoured Vehicles and all defense-related importation into Nigeria.
EUC is issued by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). All importers and such imports are to apply to the office of the NSA for certificate, prior to importation. Processing of the application in the office of the NSA does not attract any cost.