Last week, during routine monitoring at the terminal, the Nigeria Customs Service seized 1,100 pump action rifles which were illegally imported into the country. The rifles were loaded in a 20-foot container. Preliminary investigation showed that the weapons were imported from Turkey. The Bill of Lading indicated the items in the container to be wash-hand basins and water closets.
This was Customs’ third such seizure this year. The first was in February when 661 pump action rifles were found. Another 440 pump action rifles were seized in May 2017, bringing the total of rifles seized by Customs in the past nine months to 2,201. Customs’ Comptroller-General Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), while displaying the seized 1,100 Jojef Magnum Pump Action and Jojef Magnum Plastic Single Barrel Hunting Gun Pump Action Rifles at the Tin Can Island port in Lagos, said a Customs officer suspected to have cut the seal of the container without following due process had been arrested. Ali said a clerk at the terminal was arrested alongside the officer.
He said, “On September 6, 2017, operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service Intelligence Unit on routine monitoring activities at the terminal discovered a 1×20 ft container number GEAU255508 which was not previously listed for examination positioned with other containers for the day’s examination. They observed that the seal of this unlisted container had already been cut and padlocked. The container became suspect and had to be transferred to the Enforcement Unit.”
It is worrisome that this country should record three seizures of large weapons’ consignments within nine months. This should be a source of concern to the authorities and all Nigerians. Apart from the weapons seizures, there is no telling how many more managed to find their way into the country undetected.
Nigeria cannot afford such large scale proliferation of arms at this time, especially with the insurgency in the North-east, militant activities in the Niger-Delta and agitations by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other groups. We are also only a year and half away from the next general elections so there is the danger of thugs laying their hands on these guns, not to mention armed robbers and kidnappers. This issue should therefore be treated with all the seriousness it deserves. The job does not end with discovering/ intercepting illegal weapons. The Customs boss said the two previous cases are already in court. In view of the seriousness of this matter and the real danger it poses to Nigerians’ lives, we urge the authorities to expedite action and ensure the culprits face the full wrath of the law.
Also, efforts should be made to unmask those behind the importation of these arms and they should be punished accordingly as clearly they are enemies of the country. Until those people are unmasked, the efforts of the authorities in checking illegal importation of arms may just amount to window-dressing.
We commend the Customs operatives who were able to detect these items while urging for extra vigilance and 100 per cent inspection of all containers at all times. Nothing should be taken for granted as recent events have shown that criminals can to go to any length to achieve their goals. It is also commendable that the Customs officer found culpable in the recent episode has been arrested. But the event is an indication that there are people like him in the Service who are in cahoots with criminals and are ready to sacrifice the lives of fellow citizens for a mess of pottage.
Such evil persons out should be fished out and made to pay for their evil deeds. The jobs these personnel are supposed to carry out are sensitive, just as they border on the safety of citizens, therefore only people of the highest integrity should be deployed. It is also important that surveillance is extended to the borders so that criminals do not take advantage of our porous borders to bring in illegal weapons.