The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has again intercepted a container-load of pump action rifles.
The 1,100 rifles were neatly concealed and declared as building materials, specifically as wash hand basins and water closets.
Comptroller General of the Customs, Rtd. Col. Hammed Ali told newsmen on Monday that the dangerous weapons which arrived aboard MV Bella Shuttle were discovered following a thorough examination of the goods by officers of the Tin Can Island Customs Command, Lagos.
Ali also disclosed that the importer may have colluded with a customs officer who cut the seal of the container.
He said that what was more suspicious with the container was that the syndicate had quickly transferred the container to the examination bay even when it was not listed among those for examination.
“On the 6th of September, 2017, operatives of the NBCS Intelligence Unit on a routine monitoring of activities at the terminals discovered a 1x20ft container number GESU25508 which was not previously listed for examination positioned with other containers for the day’s examination.
“They also 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 indicates the content to be wash hand basins and water closets, but thorough examination the following day 7 September 2017 revealed the following: jolef magnum black pump action rifle (600); jolef magnum silver pump action rifles (300); jolef magnum plastic single barrels hunting gun pump action rifles (200).”
Ali said that the customs officer involved in the dirty deal of cutting the seal has been arrested along with the terminal clerk at the Tin Can Island port.
He expressed concern about the importation of such arms at a time of country was undergoing security challenges, adding that this was a clear indication that there were indeed some elements who do not believe in the unity, peace and well being of Nigerians.
The seizure, according to him, was the third in the series of arms seizures within eight months this year, a development he described as one presenting an all time high of the triumph of NCS over evil forces.
“The audacity of these criminals to think that they can succeed in smuggling such quantity of deadly weapons into the country calls for all round responsibilities”, he said.
He said that apart from the customs officer and terminal clerk that were arrested, the Service will carry out investigation on those behind the importation.
He also said that the ship owner who brought the consignment would have been arrested if the vessel was still in the country.
He added that the terminal operator will have to be questioned over the consignment, and urged other shipping agencies and terminal operators to wake up to support the service to nip in the bud attempts to smuggle such dangerous items in the country.
“As you may already be aware, the two previous cases of 661 pump action rifles from Apapa and 440 pump action rifles from this command seized earlier in the year are already in court. We look forward to justice being served to deter other would-be arm dealers.
“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. NCS under my leadership will do all that is possible to fish out all those remotely connected to this devilish importation. We shall bring them to justice.”
He commended the operatives of the CIU for a good job, adding that seizure such as the arms was a “testimony to the fact that a well reformed and intelligence driven Nigeria Customs Service will better serve the interests of the nation. The present management will continue to reposition and fine-tune operational strategies of the service in line with the federal government’s drive towards new and better ways of serving Nigerians.”