The recent interception of 1,100 pump action rifles at the Tin Can Island Port Complex by operatives of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) last Monday has once again raised concerns about security threats in the country particularly with imports from Turkey. This is even as industry stakeholders called on the Federal Government to impose a temporary ban on importation of goods from Turkey.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali had announced last Monday that the arms, concealed with wash hand basins and water closets in a 20-foot container with number GESU 2555208, came into the country from Turkey.
According to the Customs boss, the container was not previously listed for examination but was positioned with other containers for the day’s examination adding that it was also discovered that the seal of the container had already been broken.
This is the third in the series of arm seizures coming from Turkey within eight months.
NCS had in January seized 661pieces of pump action rifles concealed with steel doors and in May, intercepted 440 pieces of the same type of rifles. All the three arms consignments seized so far this year emanated from Turkey.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, a retired senior Customs officer, Comptroller Ralph Nwadike (retired), called for proper investigation into the matter with a view to finding lasting solution to the incessant importation of arms into Nigeria from Turkey.
He said, “It is time proper investigation is carried out even if it is not to punish anybody but with a view to finding what is really going on. I always believe that there is no smoke without fire. Somebody can’t just come in and want to take that kind of risk. There must have been a reason for it.
“The country has been so divided and diversified in terms of sentiments about places of origin but I believe if we do very good investigation, we would be able to find out why we are seeing increase in imports of arms into the country lately,” he said.
A professional certified investigator and security expert who works with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) expressed fears that Nigeria might be sitting on a “keg of gunpowder” if it does not review its bilateral trade agreement with Turkey.
According to him, the federal government must take a decisive step to address the problem of arms proliferation in the country.
“The latest arm import is an indication that we are sitting on a keg of gun powder. We need to re-align our bilateral trade agreement in reality to the 21stcentury security challenge. If a country that we have a good bilateral relationship with can allow such import to come into Nigeria, then something is wrong with the relationship.
“We had a marriage of convenience with this country but if it is no longer working then we may need to review our marriage contract.
“This container was loaded somewhere in another country before it got in here. What role has our Interpol played with other security agencies in Europe and Asian countries where these things are coming in? If there were mutual relationship, the Interpol would have gotten information about the said container and every year we budget for National Intelligence Agency. Where is the intelligence?” the official, who prefers to be anonymous since he is a government worker, said.
He also said that considering the new security threat, Customs must begin to push to acquire functional scanners at the ports instead of depending on 100 percent physical examination of cargoes.
“It is a wakeup call because you only talk about the ones that were discovered. So many may have gone undetected and entered the society and that is why there is proliferation of arms in the country. How did these arms come in? That is why you see the rising spate of violence and insecurity in all part of the country.
“Another thing is that containers that are exiting the port must begin to pass through a scanning machine. State-of-the-art scanning machines should be deployed to all the ports and border locations. Without that, we are wasting our time. If we still depend on physical examination, there will still be room for cutting of the seal and fixing up the key and before you know it, we will continue to receive this kind of national embarrassment.
“We need scanning machines that can be monitored anywhere just like the way they (Customs) monitor their payment system. Why can’t we monitor all containers coming in using a tracking device to know when they are examined? Technology has giving us a leverage that we really need to explore,” he said.
President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero in a letter dated 14th September, 2017 and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari said the breakdown of scanners at the port is responsible for the influx of arms and ammunition in the country.
Amiwero said there is an urgent need for the Nigeria to sign a memorandum of Understanding with countries like Turkey and China where most of its imports originate to stem the tide of arms importation.