By Christopher Orji and Isaac Anumihe
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday confirmed Daily Sun’s report of the interception of pump action rifles imported from Turkey, saying that the Federal Government has scheduled a meeting today with the Turkish Ambassador to discuss the frequent importation of arms into Nigeria from a particular country.
Addressing newsmen in Lagos on the recent interception of 470 pump action rifles, the Controller General of Customs (CGC), Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), said that all seaports and airports in the country have been put on red alert as the hoodlums might devise a means of using other ports to perfect their nefarious activities.
According to Ali, the federal government would meet with Turkish Ambassador today to discuss ways to check the frequent importation of arms from his country. “I want to say here that tomorrow (today) by the Grace of God, we will have the first diplomatic meeting with the Ambassador of Turkey, specifically on this issue. Already, our president has discussed this issue at an international forum. He was mandated to sit with us and to resolve on the way forward. As I promised you, steps are being taken beyond the shores of Nigeria because we must establish what is happening and why it is happening and how we can stop it,” he said
Suspecting that the criminals will avoid the Tin Can port, the CG charged his comptrollers to subject all consignments to proper scrutiny while putting all the ports, including airports, on red alert.
“In the last eight months including today, we have seized a total of 2,671 pump action rifles and I think we will continue to do this. We are not going to rest on our oars. In fact, I have given my comptrollers a matching order. Now that Tin Can Island Port is becoming too difficult, they will look on to other places. So, we have now put every port, land and airport on red alert. We are going to subject a lot of people to proper scrutiny,” he disclosed.
Ali gave the number of the 20-feet container bearing the deadly weapons as CMAU 189817/8 while the importer of the cargo is Great James Oil and Gas Limited. The vessel is MV Arkas Africa owned by Hull Blyth.
While expressing worry on the audacity of the criminals who engage in the acts, Ali said that the consolation is that the new Nigeria Customs Service is more responsive meeting the challenges posed by the criminals.
“We must rise up and remain vigilant to deal decisively with the enemies of the nation. As our seaports become increasingly impenetrable, we suspect they may want to try other entry points. Let me assure Nigerians that the service is presently at critical alert following my directive to all customs area comptrollers yesterday. We will do all in our powers to further secure this country,” he promised.
He said the government would contact the International Police (INTERPOL) and other relevant organisations to assist in the fight against the importation of deadly arms into the country.
“We have uncovered a syndicate of Nigerians in Turkey who illegally import weapon into the country; we will go after them.
Having identified the country of origin, we will not relent in making sure that we get to the bottom why the importation is coming to a particular country. President Mohammadu Buhari has discussed the issue at an international forum and the Ambassador has been directed to be on seat with us. We want to know the motive of the importer, whether he is bringing the arms for a militia group in Nigeria”.
Yesterday’s interception of 470 pump action rifles in Tin Can port, was the fourth this year. On March 10, customs intercepted 661 pump action riffles and on May 23, another 440 pump action rifles were intercepted. On September 11, 1100 pump action rifles were intercepted. The container with 661 rifles was intercepted along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway after it was duly cleared from the port but, the other three were intercepted before they were cleared from the port. All the items were said to have come from Turkey.