The Federal Government on Wednesday re-arraigned three men and two companies accused of unlawfully importing 440 pump action riffles and unassembled parts of same firearms into the country, on May 22, 2017.
The accused, Chihozie Uzochukwu, Mordi Innocent Chukwurah, Ifeanyi Igwewena and the two companies-Hizec Marine Services Limited and Patfimo Marine Services Limited-were arraigned in a seven count charge of unlawful importation, forgery and conspiracy.
According to the charge sheet, the men and their companies “on or about April 18 to May 22, 2017, at Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this court did conspire to illegally import without lawful authority into Nigeria 440 Pump Action riffles and unassembled parts of the same firearms loaded inside 1X20FT container number PONU 210024/1 and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17 of law of the federation 2004 and punishable under the same section of the same Act.”
Count three of the charge accused them of uttering “a bill of laden No 96114787 issued on May 9, 2017, to read ‘Durban-South Africa’ as point of loading instead of ‘Istanbul, Ambali, Turkey’ with intent that it will be used and acted upon as genuine by customs officer, and thereby commuted an offence contrary to section 1 (2) (c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, laws of the federation 2004 and punishable under the same section and same Act.”
In addition, count five of the charge alleged that the defendants forged application to import document (Form M) with the number MF 20170041430, to read South Africa as country of origin instead of Turkey.
It was similarly alleged that the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) document issued on April 21, 2017, was uttered to read South Africa instead of Turkey.
The final count said: “That you Paltimo Morin’s Service Limited and Mordi Innocent Chukwurah on or about April 18 to May 22, 2017, at Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court uttered a bill of lading No 960114787 said to contain ‘574 packages of Antisera and Cannulate’ from Turkey instead of 440 Pump Action riffles as content of the container number PONU 210024/1 with intent to conceal criminal activity and actual nature of the goods in the container and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous offences Act, Cap M17, law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and punishable under the same section of the same Act.”
Having read the charges to the five defendants who pleaded not guilty, the defence team argued the bail applications earlier filed before the court.
The lawyers argued that the offences are bailable, adding that bail is at the discretion of the court, hence pleaded the court to exercise its discretion in favour of their clients.
The prosecutor, Julius Ajakaye, opposed the bail application, stating that the offences are grievous.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Aikawa, adjourned he matter to March 14 and 15 for commencement of trial and ruling on the bail applications.
The defendants are to be remanded in prison custody.