How illegal arms find their way into the country
“They 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.
“The bill of lading falsely indicated the content to be wash hand basins and water closets, but thorough examination the following day, September 7, 2017 revealed the following: Jojef Magnum Black Pump Action Rifles (600 PCs), Jojef Magnum Silver Pump Action Rifles (300 PCs), Jojef Magnum Plastic Single Bartel Hunting Gun Pump Action Rifles (200 PCs). The vessel MV Bella Shuttle of 01-01-2017 conveyed the container.”
The Comptroller General noted that the importation of 1,100 rifles at a time when the nation was undergoing some security challenges was a clear indication that there were indeed some criminal elements who do not believe in the unity, peace and wellbeing of Nigeria.
According to him, the seizure was the third in a series of arms seized within eight months of the year.
“The audacity of these criminal elements to think that they can succeed in smuggling such quantity of deadly weapons into the country calls for all round responsibility. Shipping agencies and terminal operators must wake up to support the service to nip in the bud, attempts to smuggle such dangerous items into the country.
“As you may already be aware, the two previous cases of 661 pump action rifles from Apapa and the 440 pump action rifles from this command seized earlier in the year are already in court. We look toward justice being served to deter other would be arms smugglers.
“Already, one officer of the service alleged to have authorized the cutting of the seal and the terminal clerk have been arrested and are undergoing investigation,” he added.
Ali said the service under his leadership would do everything possible to fish out all those remotely connected to the act.
Presently, some officials of the Nigeria Customs Service are being tried in the open court for allowing the 661 pump action rifles seized earlier this year to leave the port.
It was gathered that a retired senior customs officer who midwifed the release was also arrested. Sources said he offered N2 million to operatives who accosted the truck at Mile 2 but later increased the offer to N4 million so that they would not check the content of the container at Mile 2.
The action, according to an informed source, fueled the suspicion on the part of the operatives who insisted that the container must be taken to the headquarters of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, where a thorough examination would be conducted.
Still not disturbed, the retired customs officer who also doubles as the clearing agent increased the stake to N12m before he was arrested. Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, said one could best imagine what would have happened if the rifles had gotten into the hands of criminals.
He said the weapons had fueled armed robbery in most parts of the country and that the ongoing war in the Northeast between the terrorist group and Nigerian security forces was traceable to arms racketeering.
He said: “These illegally acquired fire arms have contributed in no small measure to the several thousands of innocent, harmless persons that have been killed since the insurgency started.
“Pump action guns are only licensed for hunting and not for security purposes. Anybody or security group arrested with pump action rifles in Lagos will be made to face the wrath of the Law,” he added.
A security expert, Dr. Onah Ekhomu, believes that the importation of arms by criminals is also helping to fuel the crisis in the Northeast. He advised the federal government to consider the recent appointment of Sheikh Abu Musab Al-Barnawi as the leader of Boko Haram as a very serious and dangerous development in the ongoing war against terrorism and insurgency considering the movement of illegally acquired fire arms into Nigeria.
He said the strategic leadership appointment should be considered a direct threat, stressing that the federal government should urgently direct the intelligence agencies, the military, law enforcement agencies and citizens to be on full alert to avert spectacular terrorist attacks on Nigerian soil.
He said the making of a leadership change for Boko Haram signaled a much closer relationship between the group and ISIS than was previously believed.
“If ISIS gets to appoint senior leadership for Boko Haram, then they are probably running the Nigerian terror group as a local franchise,” he said.
According to him, strategic decisions such as leadership appointments are made by the spiritual leader of a terrorist group. He added that the appointment of Al-Barnawi might have been made by the ISIS leader, Sheik Abu Bakr El-Baghdadi himself. He advised the military to remain focused and on high alert.
He said: “There are strong indications that Boko Haram is re-strategizing, not surrendering. We should all be concerned about lone wolf attacks (such as suicide bombers) and wolf pack attacks which ISIS is very good at.”
An impeccable source disclosed that some shroud importers often use loopholes in the value of goods that appear to be similar as stated in the import list published by the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) to under declare the value of the cargo to be imported into the country.
A customs licensed clearing agent said the involvement of retired customs officers accounts for the corruption at the ports.
He alleged that most of the retired customs officers who are now clearing agents were responsible for the flying of containers from the ports without payment of duty.
“If you have any illegal job to do and you have the money all you need to do is to contact these retired officers and the job will be done. They give orders to serving junior officers” he added.
He said a customs officer could do more to stop the illegal flow of arms into Nigeria if he is patriotic, but accused some criminally minded importers of being much more concerned with making money than protecting the peace and unity of the country. PHOTO:
The Special Adviser on Seafarers Affairs to the President-General of the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Henry Odey, said Nigeria was only able to rescue citizens trapped in Liberia during the country’s civil war because the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) was still operational then.
Agreeing that cadets from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron are halfbaked, the retired sailor recalled that the NNSL had a training ship made for cadets, which carried cargo and cadets to give them sea-time.
Faulting the new trend whereby the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) shuttles from country to country seeking assistance on sea-time training, Odey said: “How would you think that the other countries would like to train your cadets for you to compete with them?
“It is a shame on our country because we are doing nothing. Do you think you can go to the Philippines and ask them to train your cadets so that you can compete with them? I worked on board the British ship, Dempsa, and if you were not a good sailor, nobody would employ you. But today, nobody wants to care,” he said.
Also, the publisher of a maritime daily, Ships and Ports, and Chairman, Board of Trustees of SCAN, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, noted that “indigenous shipping is dead.” He blamed the situation on NIMASA, which he said had lost focus on shipping development.
Akinola regretted that NIMASA was now a money making agency, as its 3% freight levy on ships has made it a big attraction for political appointments, adding that while CVFF grows in idle billions of naira in escrow account, MAN Oron continues to churn out ill-trained and ill-qualified cadets. According to him, no fewer than 6,000 of those cadets are today stuck with their National Diploma programme because they could not get the required one year seatime training to proceed for Higher National Diploma.
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) intercepted 661 pump-action rifles from China concealed with steel doors and other goods, which came in through Lagos port in January NAN