A trailer truck loaded with 49 boxes of 661 Pump-Action rifles was intercepted and impounded by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) in Lagos on Monday, January 30.
The Security experts disclosed that the weapons were laden in a 40-feet container and concealed with steel doors and other merchandise goods, which came in through Lagos port from China.
Speaking to newsmen on the development, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, said the Mack truck, with registration number BUG 265 XG, conveying a 40ft container with number PONU/825914/3, was intercepted along Apapa Mile 2 road by Customs officers of the Federal Operations Unit (A), Ikeja on January 22.
“The rifles are under absolute prohibition and their importation is illegal. Such deadly contravention of the law is even more unacceptable considering the fragile security situation in some parts of the country.”
Three suspects; 51-yearold Oscar Okafor (an importer), 56-year-old Mahmud Haruna (a clearing agent) and 28-year-old Sadique Mustapha (accompanying the consignment to its destination), have been arrested and detained for further interrogations, in connection with the contraband.
Ali disclosed that the investigations would focus on how the truck escaped the vigilance of Customs officers at the port, adding that all officers involved in the clearance were in detention. He also added that the importer, exporter, escort, officials of the agency and others, would be prosecuted at the end of investigations.
The Comptroller 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.
“This feat is also no doubt commendable and represents the new normal in the service where most officers and men are on a daily basis ensuring that illegalities are not allowed unchecked. I commend the Comptroller, all officers and men involved in this great seizure.”
Speculations by security experts suggested that such large importation of arms, at a period the country is facing too many security challenges, doesn’t augur well. A former commissioner of police, Mr. Frank Odita, said the seizure meant people were already thinking of 2019. He alleged that politicians may be the ones bringing the weapons into the country or other individuals for their private purposes and ulterior motives.
“The persons arrested should give us an insight into who we should be looking at and for what purposes the arms were imported.
“For me, it’s an act of God for Customs to have been able to track it. The rifles were already packed in a deceptive manner and labelled as something else. Whoever brought in those weapons doesn’t mean well for Nigeria.
“It wasn’t imported by Armed Forces or the Nigeria Police Force. What would an individual want with such an importation? It means there’s a sinister motive for such importation. If it’s not for politics, then it’s for crime.”
The expert reiterated that such illegal importation of Pump-Action rifles was the reason Nigeria remain in deep crisis and armed conflicts.