Arms seizure: FG’s axe dangles over multinational shipping lines
Strong indications emerged that the Federal Government may invoke some sections of the Customs and Excise Management Act CEMA, and the Nigerian Shippers Council Act, which prescribe strict sanctions for vessels used in the carriage of prohibited unwholesome imports including arms and ammunitions.
This is part of desperate measures to curtain the increasing illegal importation of arms into the country, which has become worrisome to the government.
Recall that a total of 2,671 riffles have been seized by the Nigeria Customs Service in the last eight months at the Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa, Lagos alone, comprising 440 pieces of pump action guns intercepted in May, 661 pieces of pump action riffle seized in July, 1, 100 rifles seized early this month and another consignment of 470 pieces of the same guns seized last week with more than half of them coming from Turkey.
Comptroller General of the service, Col. Hameed Ali, who gave this indication, disclosed that the service is planning to work with the Nigerian Shippers Council, the nation’s commercial regulator for the seaports in order to determine appropriate sanctions for any shipping lines that convey these banned goods into the country including arms.
According to him, the two organisations will particularly look into their enabling legislations the CEMA and the NSC Act, in details to harmonise their positions and provisions on the use of any vessel for the carriage of banned items.
For instance, section 157 of the CEMA, which is also in consonance with some of the conventions and protocols of the World Customs Organisation WCO, provides the forfeiture of imported banned or unwholesome items while the means of conveyance (the ship or vessel) would be impounded.
It was gathered that the Federal Government might be left with no other option than to invoke this section of the CEMA, which makes the shipping line in any case of illegal importation liable to seizure, a development that would make them more diligent.
“We are concluding plans to meet with the management of the Nigerian Shippers Council in order to look at both the CEMA and NSC Act to see how we can punish shipping lines that bring in these contrabands, especially arms and ammunitions”.
“We are launching investigations into these repeated cases of smuggling of arms into the country because it has become necessary for the government to know whether it is for economic reasons or political”, the CG said.
He observed that with the influx of arms and ammunitions into the country in the last eight months, especially from Turkey, Nigeria is under threat, a development that needed serious and proactive actions to curtail the trend.
It was also gathered that other commands including those at air, seaports, land borders and marine commands have been placed under red alert, as there are fears that the importers of these arms may try other commands since it appears that the Tin Can Port might be tight for them to penetrate.
The CG had while briefing newsmen in Lagos on the seizure of 470 guns, which is the latest on the row indicated that the Federal Government would adopt a diplomatic approach towards addressing this repeated cases of smuggling of arms from Turkey.
This latest seizure, laden in a 20-foot container with identification number CMAU189817/8, manifested as plumbing materials came on board MV Arkas Africa, a Hull Blyth vessel, was said to be imported by Great James Oil and Gas Ltd. and was discovered to contain 470 units of Jojefa pump action guns.
Under the diplomatic approach, top management of the service met with the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, with a view to opening up diplomatic channels to address the issue to forestall any disagreement with both countries.
It was further gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to take up the matter at very top diplomatic discussions with world leaders with a view to checkmating the incessant illegal importation of such firearms, given the current security situation in the country.
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