How il­le­gal arms find their way into the coun­try

Weekly Trust - - News -

“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

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