The Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service, has intercepted a container loaded with 49 boxes of 661 pump-action rifles along the Mile 2 Apapa Road of Lagos State.
The 40-foot container, which was cleared at the Lagos port, was intercepted by Customs officials who were on patrol.
The officials were said to have discovered that although the manifest said the container had “steel doors and other merchandise goods,” boxes of the weapons were concealed deep in the container.
Our correspondent was told that the rifles, tagged, ‘JOJEFF made in Italy,’ could take up to 10 cartridges and could wreak a lot of havoc.
Other items found in the container were diapers, office cabinet, towels, mattresses, soft drinks, toiletries, among others.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), during a press conference on Monday at the FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, said the container came from China, but was routed through Turkey to “cause confusion.”
He explained that three suspects, Oscar Okafor (importer), Mahmud Hassan (clearing agent) and Sadique Mustapha (escort) had been arrested.
He said the suspects were undergoing interrogations at the agency’s office and would not be paraded until their culpability was established.
He said, “On Sunday, January 22, 2017, the roving team of the NCS, Federal Operations Unit, while on information patrol intercepted a Mack truck with number plate, BDG 265 XG, conveying a one by 40-foot container with number: PONU/825914/3 along Mile 2 Apapa Road.
“The truck was immediately taken to the premises of FOU Zone A, Ikeja, where physical examination revealed 49 boxes containing a total of 661 pieces of pump action rifles concealed with steel doors and other merchandise goods. In the declaration of the items in the container, the importer concealed the weapons and declared them as still doors.
“These rifles are under absolute prohibition; therefore, their importation is illegal. The importation and transaction of pump-action is totally against the law of this nation.
“Such a deadly contravention of the law is even more unacceptable considering the fragile security situation in some parts of the country. We have kidnappers and armed robbers and there is insurgency, it is more intense. There are also the cattle rustlers, who are also using the same weapon. So, they are deadly.”
Ali explained that investigations had commenced into how the truck escaped the vigilance of Customs officers at the port, adding that all officers involved in the clearance were in detention.
He noted that the importer, exporter, escort, officials of the agency and others, would be prosecuted at the end of investigations.
Ali called for vigilance among residents, saying it was important that people shared information with security agencies on the movement of suspicious items.
He said, “One of the important roles we play is the security of Nigerians. And the only way we can do this is to ensure that things like this don’t get into the country. Where they find their way in, we must ensure the importers don’t enjoy the illegality. This is why our men are all over the place.
“However, we need the assistance of the public because these things do happen. Imagine if this truck had escaped and had been offloaded by some people. They will be transferred and if we don’t get information, there is no way we can apprehend them. In the end, you and I will be affected by this. It could fall into the hand of an armed robber or a kidnapper and there will be problem.
“This is why the security network of this country must involve everybody. We must ensure we give the prerequisite information. Without information, we won’t be able to do anything. This happened because we got information and our men acted promptly.”
Ali described the seizure as one of the biggest feats the agency had recorded in 2017, promising to reward the officials who carried out the operation.
While fielding questions from journalists, Ali admitted that there were problems with the nation’s scanners at the borders.
He said most of the scanners were faulty, adding that the agency was working towards resolving the problem.
He said, “We have problems with the scanners. Most of the scanners are not working. We realised that while a few of them can be repaired, majority are bad. And I need not tell you that paucity of funds has been part of the problems. But you will start seeing changes as we are working hard to resolve the problem.”
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