By Gbemi Solaja, Lagos
Five persons are currently facing charges at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos on allegations bordering on conspiracy, corruption, and importation of prohibited firearms, forgery and tendering of forged documents.
Two of the accused were identified as officials of Nigerian Customs Services (NCS), and the other three as clearing agents.
The five were arraigned by the Federal Government on Wednesday for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said to be at large, and Salihu Danjuma face an eight – count charge before Justice Ayokunle Faji.
According to the charge, the five between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barreled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos.
The items were said to have been brought into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
The five were charged for allegedly forging a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report which aided the importation of the illegal items.
Again, to evade Customs duties, the five forged a bill of lading said to have been issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, while they claimed that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
The forged bill of lading indicated that they filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.
In other related offences, the five were accused of giving a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigerian Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit.
The bribe was given to the officer to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”
After which the first accused, Hassan gave N1m to government officials at the Apapa Port to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
The judge ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody.
The matter was adjourned till September 12, 2017 for definite hearing.