The Federal Government on Wednesday arraigned five men for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
The accused persons were arraigned before Justice Ayokunle Faji at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
They are Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said be at large, and Salihu Danjuma.
In the charge, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the accused persons brought the rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
To facilitate the illegal importation, the accused persons allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.
According to the prosecution, in order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused persons allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
In the forged bill of lading, they allegedly filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”
The prosecution also alleged that the first accused person, Hassan, corruptly gave N1m to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.
In the last count, the Federal Government alleged that the defendants had between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barrelled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barrelled shotguns into the country through Lagos.
The eight counts pressed against them bordered on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, uttering of forged documents, and bribery.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Consequently, the prosecuting counsel, K.A. Fagbemi, applied for a date to commence trial but urged the court to order that the accused persons should be remanded in the prison custody pending trial.
Justice Faji adjourned till September 12, 2017 for definite hearing and ordered that the accused persons should be remanded in the prison custody.