Operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) have intercepted a container loaded with 1,100 pieces of pump action rifles at Tin Can port, Apapa, Lagos, making a total of 2,201 such arms seized at three different times this year.
The Comptroller-General of NSC, Hameed Ali, who paraded the arms at Tin Can port command yesterday, disclosed that the rifles were discovered in a 20-foot container with number GESU2555208 which originated from Turkey. He said two people had been arrested – the customs officer that authorised the cutting of the seal and a terminal clerk.
The customs had in January seized 661 pieces of pump action rifles, which were found in 49 boxes. And in May, the operatives intercepted 440 pieces of assorted pump action rifles, which originated from Turkey and were concealed inside a 40-foot container.
Ali, who was apparently worried about the incessant smuggling of arms in recent days, said the two cases were already in court, “while the service looks forward to justice being served to deter other would-be arms smugglers.” He expressed displeasure that all the three containers of arms intercepted by the service this year were from Turkey.
Other stakeholders in the maritime industry have also raised concerns over the cargoes from Turkey. Some advised the Federal Government to urgently halt general importation from Turkey, saying recent events indicated that the country was contributing to insecurity in Nigeria.
Giving details on how the 20ft container was intercepted, Ali said it was falsely declared to contain wash-hand basins and water closets.“On the 6th of September, 2017 operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence unit on a routine monitoring of activities across the terminals discovered a 1x20ft container with number GESU2555208, which was not previously listed for examination, positioned with other containers for the day’s examination.
“They also observed that the seal of this unlisted container had already been cut and padlocked. The container became suspect and had to be immediately transferred to the enforcement unit.
“Upon thorough examination, the container was discovered to contain 600 pieces of Jojef Magnum Black Pump action, 300 pieces of Jojef Magnum Silver Pump action and 209 pieces of Jojef Magnum Plastic Single Barrels Hunting Gun Pump Action Rifles.
“The importation of 1100 rifles at a time when the nation is undergoing some security challenges is a clear indication that there are indeed some elements who do not believe in the unity, peace and well being of Nigeria,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports, Bolaji Akinola, had earlier urged the Federal Government to ban importation from Turkey.He said: “I will suggest that government should halt all manner of importation from Turkey and institute a thorough investigation both at the diplomatic and intelligence levels.”
According to Akinola, the arms should have been discovered in Turkey while examining the cargo as it is done in every country, but this was not done in these cases, thereby raising suspicion.The President, International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA), Sam Onyemelukwe, urged the customs to get to the root of the matter and allow the law to take its course on the culprits.
He said: “Nobody should be seen as above the law. They must be allowed to face the music in order to serve as a deterrent to others that may be interested in such an illicit trade.”To a security expert, Ona Ekhomu, the development has a dire security implication for the country. He said the customs would have to re-strategise to curtail the menace.
Ekhomu, who is the President of the Association of Industrial Security & Safety Operators of Nigeria, said more arms were coming into the country because there were so many loopholes being exploited by the importers, aided by corrupt officials and non-enforcement of the laws.
“You have to really worry how many of such consignments would have escaped the customs screening, indicating that we will be having a number of guns in the system by now, and thereby posing a serious security threat to the country.
“This is especially now that the period of politics is inching closer, while the militancy, herdsmen, ethnic groups, kidnapping and robbery among others are on the rise,” he said.
Ekhomu urged the Federal Government to register a protest to the Turkish authority to ensure that some foreign collaborators were not forging alliance with the locals in Nigeria to destroy the country.
Relatedly, a crack team of Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Imo State Police Command has arrested a 16-year-old Onyedikachi Iyaka from Egbulu, Awaka, Owerri North Local Council for being in possession of gun and cache of ammunition.
Parading the suspect and others yesterday at the command’s headquarters in Owerri, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, disclosed that a massive search uncovered and recovered a haul of ammunition at the teenager’s ancestral home in Awaka, following a whistle blowing.
He listed the ammunition recovered as ‘’1,400 rounds of chained GPMG live ammunition, 1,016 rounds of AK 47 live ammunition, one AK 47 magazine and one K2 empty magazine.’’
Other items Ezike said were uncovered included ‘’army camouflage bullet proof vest, one police bullet proof vest, one police raincoat, one green beret cap and one empty ammunition box.’’
In defence, Iyaka said his biological brother, Jeff, who he claimed to be a police officer fighting Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State allegedly told him to sell the materials to security men in the same profession at the rate of N7000 per pack.
“One Jude called me on phone that one police officer wanted to buy ammunition and he gave him my number and he called me, but when I came I was arrested,” he said.