No less than 28 Customs officers have been arrested in connection with series of illegal weapons imports through the Lagos seaports, following a fresh discovery of another container loaded with 475 riffles at the Tin Can island ports in Lagos, yesterday.
The discovery is coming at the heels of a similar development in which the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), retired Col Hameed Ali announced the seizure of 283 exotic cars, and the recovery of 18 cars from an Abuja importer.
Official sources at the Tin Can Island Customs Command who uncovered the latest container with number CMAU189817/8 said it is suspected to also emanate from Turkey.
The seizure comes barely one week after the command intercepted a 20-foot container load of 1,100 pump action riffles at the same port.
It was gathered at the port yesterday that the rifles were discovered after the Customs Area Controller of the Command; Bashir Yusuf ordered a detailed profiling of the importer of the 1,100 riffles intercepted last week.
The source said the container belongs to the same importer who is currently on the run.
The seizure is the third in the series of container loads of arms seizure at Tin Can port alone and the fourth in the country within eight months.
Our source hinted that at the completion of the profiling, the Command discovered that the importer had another container in the port which turned out to habour the latest seizures.
The source added further that the 28 officers currently under detention may have one way or the order tried to aid the easy passage of the illegal imports, hence they may be prosecuted if found culpable, at the end of investigations.
The officers are said to be in collaboration with some shipping and liner agents who are also billed for prosecution, if found to be liable.
The Customs Command however appeared to be quiet on the matter, as the Public Relations Officer, Mr Uche Ejesieme claimed he was not aware of the discovery.
But sources said the container was examined by a combined team of Customs Intelligence Officers and Enforcement officers at the Tin Can port.
Ali had told journalists that out of the 18 cars, 13 were bullet proof with a street value of between N70million and N280million each.
Among the cars were Range Rover, Rolls Royce, Lexus, G-Wagon, Prado jeep, Lincoln Navigator, Infinity, Mercedes Benz 4matic, Toyota Sequoia and Toyota Camry.
Ali said the vehicles with bullet proof did not have end user certificates issued by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
According to him, 135 vehicles were seized in Lagos, 93 at Kaduna and 37 at Port Harcourt.
Ali has said, “On Saturday, 16th of September, 2017, based on credible information, the detachment of the Compliance Team visited Kefiano Motors Limited in the Central Business Area, Abuja and discovered 18 suspected smuggled exotic vehicles that were displayed for sale.
“Beyond the issue of non-payment of customs duty, 13 of these vehicles are bulletproof. These vehicles require clearance from the Office of the National Security Adviser before importation.
“In a period of fragile security, we cannot afford to have unauthorized persons use armored vehicles. Without end user certificates, possession of these vehicles is illegal.”
To this end, the Comptroller General warned, “Let it be known that being in possession of smuggled items is an offence punishable under Section 3 of Customs and Excise (Special Penal and Other provisions) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“In the last two months, the service has stepped up its implementation of the Federal Government’s ban on importation of vehicles through land borders. These re-invigorated anti-smuggling activities have yielded positive results.”
By Alex Akao