The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, yesterday announced the seizure of 470 pump action rifles smuggled into the country through the Tin Can ports in Apapa, Lagos.
The Nigerian Customs Service has however placed all the nation’s gateways, including the seaports, land borders and airports, on red alert to checkmate the smuggling of arms and ammunition into the country.
According to Ahmad Ali, the arms were concealed in a 20-foot container with No. CMAU189817/8 falsely declared as elbow plumbing plastics on its bill of lading. The importer of the cargo is Great James Oil and Gas Limited, and the vessel is MV Arkas Africa owned by Hull Blyth. Ali has therefore directed all customs formations at the gateways to be on the alert and ensure a 100 per cent examination of cargoes entering the country.
“Having developed the profile of most important items coming from Turkey, the controller of Tin Can Island Customs command, Bashar Yusuf, had insisted on a 100 per cent examination of any container that comes in. The result is what we see on the ground.
“It is an understatement to say that we are being threatened as a country and our findings have shown that this dastardly act is perpetrated by Nigerians. There are syndicates who are in Turkey and manifesting this. We are yet to get to the bottom of the whole thing. Are these meant for commercial purposes? Are they meant to be used by insurgents, agitators as they called themselves, or kidnappers? That aspect of the investigation is going on and I am sure that the State Security Service and other agencies will unravel these,” he said.
He lamented that about 80 per cent of importation comes under false declaration. “That is why we find it difficult to effectively execute the ease of doing business, because if we speed up clearance and depend on the document, these are what we will be unleashing on our society. We have to subject the containers to a100 per cent examination and that delays the honest people’s goods.”
According to the customs boss, unless Nigerians begin to do the right thing and be honest in their business dealings, it would be difficult to ensure the ease of doing business. “That is the fact because if we do apply that, this is what we will end up with and I don’t think we want to shy away from doing our duty because we want to clear goods faster. The safety and wellbeing of Nigerians is more important. The security of this country is more important to Nigeria Customs Service than the money we will collect in terms of duty.”
According to Ali, arms and ammunition are under prohibited items. “Aside from arms and ammunition posing a serious challenge to national security, 80 per cent of illicit goods coming into the country are often intercepted by customs under false declaration. Therefore, we need the best technology to detect such items in order to prevent them from going into wrong hands.”
Meanwhile, The Federal Government has summoned the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Çakıl, for talks over the massive illegal shipment of arms from his country to Nigeria.
The government will at the meeting, which is expected to hold today, express its dissatisfaction over the matter and demand immediate action to curb the menace.