Heads may roll in Customs over seized 661 pump-action rifles
Strong indications emerged that several heads may roll in the Nigeria Customs Service over the interception and seizure of a total of 661 pieces of pump-action rifles imported from China.
The seizure was made by the operatives of the Federal Operations Unit FOU, of the service, was contained in 49 boxes loaded on a Mack truck along the Mile 2 – Apapa Road, and was believed to have been cleared from one of the commands in Lagos.
It was gathered that already some officers have been arrested are currently being interrogated with a view to unraveling the mystery behind the unwholesome import.
Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, while briefing the media in Ikeja, Lagos on Monday, disclosed that the weapons were falsely declared as steel doors and other merchandise.
He also hinted that some of the officers that participated in the processes of clearing the ill-fated consignment at one of the commands have been arrested and detained already.
Also, three suspects including one Oscar Okafor (51); Mahmud Hassan (56) and Sadique Mustapha (28) have been arrested in connection with the seizure while investigation has commenced to fish out those involved in the importation of the consignment.
The CG said: “On Sunday 29 January 2017, the roving team of the Federal Operations Unit of the service while on information patrol intercepted a Mack Truck with registration number BDG 265XG conveying a one 40-foot container with number PONU /825914/3.
“In the declaration of the items in the container, the importer concealed these weapons and declared them as steel doors.
“The truck was immediately taken to the premises of the FOU where physical examination revealed 49 boxes containing a total number of 661 pieces of pump action rifles concealed with steel doors and other merchandize goods.
According to him, the seizure underscores the determination of the service to enforce all laws relating to import and export and therefore commended the Controller in charge of the FOU, Lagos, Comptroller Haruna Mamud and operatives of the unit who detected and seized the offending consignment, which he said would be handed over to the appropriate security agency for further actions.
Investigations however show that the rifles fall under absolute prohibition, even as stakeholders have expressed apprehensions that their importation at this point in time poses a serious security threat, especially given the current state of insecurity in Nigeria.
The CG, who expressed shock at the boldness of the importers of the absolutely prohibited items, said that in the past when he was a young officer, pump action rifles must be licensed by the Police, noting that due to the security nature of the country, government decided to prohibit the licensing of pump action and therefore put it under absolute prohibition, which makes the importation and transaction of pump action against the law of the land.
“The Customs officers that are involved in the clearance of the container, who are currently in detention at the Federal Operations Unit, would be investigated and prosecuted for allowing such consignment exit the port”, Ali assured..
He however appealed to members of the public to assist the service with important information that could assist it perform its statutory responsibilities adding that security of the country should be the concern of all.
The Customs boss argued that the place of classified information and intelligence gathering cannot be over-emphasised in securing the nation, especially given the current high level of insecurity in the country.
Meanwhile stakeholders have expressed fears over the increasing cases of importation of illegal arms and ammunition into the country, which they described as frightening.
Only last month, the Tin Can Island command of the service intercepted and seized a large cache of arms and ammunitions, gas masks and bullet proof vests imported from the United States and declared as personal effects.