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MATTERS ARISING: What happened to previous illegal arms seized by customs?

MATTERS ARISING: What happened to previous illegal arms seized by customs?
September 11
18:28 2017
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On Monday, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) announced that it had seized a large cache of arms, in an ebullient bust.

It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Joseph Attah, spokesman of the NCS, told TheCable that the service discovered 1,100 pump-action rifles in a container at Tin-Can Island port, Lagos.

According to him, the arms were smuggled into the country from Turkey. The seizure is the largest the customs has made this year.

Attah also revealed that a customs officer and a clerk at the Tin-Can Island command of the service were in custody. And in his words, “investigation is ongoing”.

But Nigerians are asking: what happened to previous arms seizures and the investigations?

TWO ILLEGAL ARMS SEIZURES BUT “OWNERS” MASKED

On May 23, the customs announced that it had seized a container-load of arms smuggled in from Turkey at Tin-Can Island port, Lagos.

Monday Abue, head of Tin-Can Island command, who made the disclosure, said the consignment was falsely declared as plaster of Paris (POP).

He said the cargo contained 440 arms and ammunition, and as usual “investigation was in progress to locate the importer”.

Also, on January 30, Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of customs, said his men intercepted 49 boxes containing 661 pieces of pump-action rifles smuggled from China to Nigeria.

He specifically said “officials of the federal operations unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja, intercepted a Mark truck with registration number BUG 265 XG, conveying a 40 feet container with number; PONU/825914/3 along Mile 2 Apapa Road, in Lagos”.

He disclosed the boxes were concealed with steel and other merchandise.

NIGERIA CUSTOM INTERCEPTED LARGE POMP RIFFLES AT THE NIGERIA WHARF PORT, APAPA, LAGOS..YESTERDAY 2

Riffles seized in May. No news update up till now

Ali also said: “Investigation has already commenced and I have directed that the dragnet be wide enough to fish out all persons involved in the importation and clearing of the consignment”.

“Already three suspects have been arrested in connection with this illegal importation and the officers involved in the clearing of this container are with the comptroller under detention.”

It has been months since these two important seizures, but “investigations” seem not to have been concluded. The “real” owners of these death weapons are not known, and have not been prosecuted.

Is the government deliberately shielding the owners of these weapons? And why will an investigation take “ages” to conclude?

Going by documents required for the importation of goods into the country, unmasking the identity of the native owner of an item may not be much of a hassle because they (the documents) require a statement of full disclosure.

According to the customs, “all imports into the country shall be accompanied by the following documents: a. combined certificate of value and origin (CCVO), and shall contain the following information — e-form ‘M’ no; adequate description of goods; port of destination (The actual port shall be specified e.g. Tin Can, Apapa, Kano, Onne, etc.); shipment identification, date of shipment, country of origin, country of supply; final/commercial Invoice; packing list – shipped/ clean on board bill of lading/Airway bill/Way bill/road way bill; manufacturer’s certificate of production, and the Phytosanitary certificate or chemical analysis report.”

Also, considering Nigeria’s tenuous security situation matters of this prodigality are to be treated with transparency and alacrity to dispel fear and doubt. And despite the pledge of the customs chief to denude those behind the importation of these fearsome weapons, their identities are still concealed.

IMPORTER, CLEARING OFFICERS ARRESTED — AND THAT’S IT!

The customs declared three of its officers, who cleared container No: PONU/825914/3, which contained the seized 661 rifles, wanted shortly after the seizure.

Two of the officers Abdullahi I and Odiba Haruna Inah surrendered, while the third, Yola Babakiri Ibrahim absconded.

The service also gave the names of other suspects in its custody as – Oscar Okafor (importer), Mahmud Hassan (clearing agent) and Sadique Mustapha (who was trucking the consignment to its destination).

Despite this disclosure, the customs has not made any further revelation as regards the issue.

CUSTOMS SAYS DSS TAKEN OVER INVESTIGATION

After persistent harrying, the customs told TheCable that the Department of State Services (DSS) had taken over investigation into the illegal arms importations.

The customs spokesman said the service concluded its investigation and handed the findings over to the Department of State Services (DSS) for action.

But it has been eight months since the first arms seizure, and three months since the second bust, but the outcome of the investigation is still a chimera.

TheCable could not reach the DSS for comments because the agency does not have a dedicated mobile line for communication.

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Copyright 2017 TheCable. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.thecable.ng as the source.
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