661 pump-action rifles: Court requests suspects’ medical report

Customs-Intercepts-661-Pump-Action-Rifles-In-Lagos-

The Federal High Court in Lagos has asked for medical reports detailing the health status of four out of the five men charged with illegal firearms’ importation by the federal government.

Two of the five suspects on Monday opted for plea bargain in the case which was adjourned until Tuesday.

The judge, Ayokunle Faji, at the sitting on Tuesday directed authorities of the prison where the accused persons were remanded to make their medical reports available to the court before October 4, which is the next hearing date in the case.

The directive followed the concern raised by the third defendant’s counsel, Paul Ananaba, on the health status of his client.

On his part, the lawyer representing the second defendant, Rotimi Jacobs, told the court that he had already formally communicated to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation the intention of his client to enter into a plea bargain with the federal government.

Faji adjourned the case till October 4 to await the response of the AGF to the plea bargain proposal and the medical reports on the defendants issued by the prison.

The defendants in the case are Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said to be at large, and Salihu Danjuma.

They were arraigned by the federal government on June 14 for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.

In the eight charges pressed against the defendants, the AGF said the suspects 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.

To facilitate the illegal importation, the accused allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a ‘Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.’

According to the prosecution, 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.

In the forged bill of lading, they allegedly filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.

They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operations Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”

The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1 million to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.

In the last count, the federal government alleged 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.

The eight counts pressed against them border on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, altering documents, and bribery.

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.‎

They had all earlier pleaded not guilty until Monday when Jacob’s client, Okafor, indicated his intention to enter into a plea bargain.

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