661 Riffles: NAGAFF makes case for releasing officers

Boniface Aniebonam

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has said that officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) who were recently arrested for involvement in the clearance of a container load of 661 pump action rifles, which was later seized by the operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) in Lagos, should not be held liable because the NCS management failed to provide relevant cargo examination equipment at the port.

Founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam said in a press statement issued at the weekend said that although Customs officers most time exercise due discretion in the conduct of their duty, no officer will release arm no matter the level of inducement.

He said it is regrettable that the hydro scanners at the various seaports and other entry points are not working for automation of Customs examination arguing that even when they were working, they may not serve the purpose because they are obsolete and cannot even detect the assault rifles in a container.

Aniebonam advised that the matter be properly investigated to ascertain whether the importer has a valid permit from the Office of the National Security Adviser or the Office or the Inspector General of Police.

He expressed worry over the conduct of freight forwarders and licensed Customs agents who he said had suddenly became importers which they are not.

He also reiterate the need for the NCS to jettison the idea of licensing corporate bodies which, according to him, has provided a shield for importers to commit crimes without being held responsible.

“The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders had since declared that the frenzy over the 661 rifles illegally imported into the country, and which were impounded by the Federal Operations Unit Ikeja is uncalled for as long as we all know that smuggling activities are recurring global illegal trade.

“It is on record that the President of the United States of America Donald Trump is insisting that his Government must build a wall to protect Americans from the hands of smugglers of cocaine, heroin, terrorists and heinous crimes in general.

“It is also on records that pump action (rifles) are a restricted import falling under absolute prohibition. The point herein canvassed is to state that the subject matter should be to investigate whether the importer has a valid permit from the office of the National Security Adviser and/or the office of the Inspector General of Police.

“NAGAFF had also stated that the officers of the Nigeria Customs who may have worked or were involved with the clearance of the said container should not be associated with matters of connivance because the tools for trade facilitation in relation to Customs examination are not available in our ports. We know that in most cases the greater numbers of Customs examiners exercise due discretion to do their job.

“NAGAFF is greatly worried over the conduct of freight forwarders and licensed Customs agents who overnight became importers which they are not. We just hope that the agent connected to this alleged illegal importation did not use his private company for the import. It is regrettable to note that most freight agents seem not to realize the implication of their actions whenever they use their private companies to import and document for their principals.

“We have always advised and will continue to advise the management of the Nigeria Customs Service to jettison the idea of licensing corporate bodies which has provided a shield for the importers to commit crimes without being held responsible. The need to license individuals who are trained and certified by an approved authority cannot be overemphasized,” Aniebonam stated.