Just as the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Tincan Island Command is still working with Police to unravel the importers of the 440 Pump Action rifles impounded earlier last month at the port, the Federal Government on Wednesday arraigned five men for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
The suspects including Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said be at large, and Salihu Danjuma, were arraigned before Justice Ayokunle Faji at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Details of charges seen by Business Hilights on Thursday showed that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice averred that the accused brought the rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
Otherwise, the accused allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report to clean up the illegal importation which failed on their arrest.
Apart from the offence of illegal arms importation, the accused, in order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
The forged bill of lading, indicated “steel door” as the content of the container whereas it is rifles which are on the absolute prohibition list of imports.
The accused were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”
Additional details showed that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1million to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.
Last but not the least charge pressed on the accused by the Federal Government is that the defendants had between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barrelled shotguns, pump-action rifles, and single-barrelled shotguns into the country through Lagos.
Further analysis of the eight counts charges hinged on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, uttering of forged documents, and bribery.
The Attorney General said the offences were said to be contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
All the accused, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them and Justice Faji adjourned till September 12, 2017, for definite hearing and ordered that the accused should be remanded in the prison custody.
Business Hilights findings noticed that in both seizures, Turkey as a country was involved which means that time has come for the policy makers to begin a strategic alliance with managers of Turkish ports to find a way of ending the illicit business and traffic.