The Nigeria Customs Service, on Saturday, explained why it had not prosecuted those arrested for their alleged involvement in the importation of 49 boxes of 661 pump-action rifles, stating that the service had yet to conclude investigations into the matter.
The Assistant Comptroller and acting spokesman for the NCS, Joseph Attah, told our correspondent during a telephone interview that no action could be taken on the matter now as investigations had not been concluded.
The Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the NCS had, on January 30, intercepted the 40-foot container containing the rifles along the Mile 2 — Apapa Road in Lagos State.
The FOU officials were said to have discovered that although the manifest said the container had “steel doors and other merchandise goods,” boxes of the weapons were concealed deep in the container.
The rifles tagged, ‘JOJEFF made in Italy,’ could take up to 10 cartridges and could wreak a lot of havoc.
Other items found in the container were diapers, office cabinet, towels, mattresses, soft drinks and toiletries among others.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), had said the container came from China, but was routed through Turkey to “cause confusion.”
He had explained that three suspects, Oscar Okafor (importer), Mahmud Hassan (clearing agent) and Sadique Mustapha (escort) had been arrested.
Two days later, two customs officers — Abdullahi I, and Odiba Inah — who cleared the container were arrested and transferred to the Customs headquarters in Abuja.
When asked when the suspects would be charged to court since it was up to two weeks that they had been detained, Attah said the outcome of the investigations would determine the next line of action for the service.
He said, “They are facing investigations already. It is only when investigations are completed that appropriate actions can be taken.
“All those concerned with the importation of the rifles are currently under investigations. And when the investigations are completed, the findings of the investigations will determine further action.”
… Okogie demands prosecution of importers, accomplices
A former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, on Saturday, called on the Federal Government to prosecute the sponsors of the suspects arrested in connection with the 661 pump — action rifles intercepted in Lagos by the NCS.
The cleric, who is a former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, also condemned security agencies as showing ineptitude towards crime prevention in the country.
Okogie said this in an article titled, ‘Who is importing arms into Nigeria?’
Okogie accused the NCS and the relevant security agencies at the port of negligence and ineptitude towards crime prevention.
According to him, the admittance by the NCS boss that the guns were intercepted after the consignment had been cleared by the service at the entry point showed there were lapses in the system.
Okogie said, “A dictum has it that prevention is better than cure. Intelligence is crime prevention. Nigeria’s security agencies — in this case, the Customs, the Police, the Army, to mention but these — have repeatedly demonstrated their ineptitude when it comes to preventing acts that are inimical to security.”