Customs chief explains how businessmen imported 1,570 rifles into Nigeria

440 pump action rifles intercepted by Customs
PHOTO CREDIT: SHIPS & PORTS archive

A Chief Superintendent of Customs (CSC), Ayodele Rotimi on Thursday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the two consignments of 1,570 pump action rifles allegedly seized from two businessmen, Great James Ayogu and Moses Christ Ifeuwa by the Customs Service originated from Turkey.

The Customs officer, who testified in the ongoing trial of the two businessmen, also told the court that arms were illegally and unlawfully imported into Nigeria through the Apapa port in Lagos.

The two men alongside a limited liability company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited, were arraigned before the court by the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) on allegations of conspiracy, illegal and unlawful importation of firearms, uttering of Customs’ forms, forgery and false declaration.

The prosecutors, Julius Ajakaiye, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, told the court during their arraignment that the offences are: contrary to and punishable under Section 3(6), 1(14)(a), 1(14)(a)(i), 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

While being led in evidence by Ajakaiye yesterday, Rotimi told the court that on September 6, 2017, at about 3 pm a call came through from the Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) that a container was found at terminal B1, of the Tincan Island Port, Lagos laden with arms and that the Enforcement Unit should mobilise men and materials to the site.

The witness claimed that on getting to the place, the container was found opened and that his team also confirmed that the container actually contained arms.

He said his team then requested for a letter to be made to the Terminal Manager to provide logistics to transfer the container to the Enforcement Unit, adding that the container was subsequently transferred same day at about 6 pm necessitating the shifting of the 100 per cent examination till the next day.

The witness further stated that during examination, the entire content of the container was off loaded and stocks taken while the serial numbers of each of the rifles were taken.

Rotimi added that after the discovery of the arms-laden container, the Customs observed a trend of containers coming in from Turkey, saying this necessitated the Area Comptroller of Customs to direct his men to be on top alert by ensuring that the manifest of all cargoes from Turkey are properly scrutinised.

The witness said that while on the lookout for cargoes coming in from Turkey, another container bearing the name of the first consignee, Great James Oil Gas Limited was also discovered.

He stated that the country of the two containers was Turkey, adding that while the first container contained 1,100 Pump Action Rifles, the second container contained 470 Pump Action Rifles.

Rotimi stressed that after counting and taking stocks of the items in the containers with the serial numbers of the rifles written down, the Area Comptroller directed that the two containers be handed over to the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) of the Nigerian Customs Service, Ikeja, Lagos, where the items in the containers were recounted and the serial numbers of the rifles re-confirmed and a handing over and taking over letter was signed.

Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned the case till April 2, for continuation of l trial.

The prosecutor had told the court during the arraignment of the defendants that they conspired among themselves between September 6 and 20, 2017, to illegally and unlawfully import a total of 1, 570 pump action rifles into Nigeria, through Apapa Seaport, Lagos.

He also told the court that the accused persons loaded the said 1,570 pump action rifles in two 1× 20 feet containers marked GESU 2555208 and CMAU 1878178.

Ajakaiye explained to the court that the defendant, in a bid to bring in the weapons unlawfully, altered and forged a bill of lading, issued in July 28, 2017, to read Guandong, China, instead of Istanbul, Turkey, which was written on the conveying container.

He added that they also altered Form M (application for Import) and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), issued in August 28, 2017, with number MF 20170080364 and CN 20170768490/001, respectively, to read Guandong, China instead of Istanbul, Turkey, as country of origin.

The defendants were also alleged to have altered a forged bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued in July 28, 2017, to read 230 packages of washing hand basins and W/C, as the content in the container used in shipping the illegal firearms.

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