Alleged importers of 661 pump-action rifle importers to begin defence April 4

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PHOTO CREDIT: SHIPS & PORTS archive

The five men charged with illegally importing 661 pump-action rifles into Nigeria will open their defence on April 6, 2019 after the Nigerian Government on closed its case against them on Monday.

The defendants in the charge filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos are Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said to be at large, and Salihu Danjuma.

They were first arraigned on June 14, 2017 before Justice Ayokunle Faji.

After calling its ninth witness on Monday, the prosecuting counsel for the Federal Government, Julius Ajakaye, told the court that the prosecution would be closing its case.

The judge adjourned till April 4 for the defendants to open their defence.

In the charges against them, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the accused brought 661 pump-action rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-foot 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 Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-foot container with number PONU 825914/3.”

The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1m 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-barreled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos.

The eight counts pressed against them border on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, uttering of forged 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.