By Godfrey BIVBERE & Godwin ORITSE
NIGERIANS woke up Wednesday morning, to be confronted with the shocking news of the importation of 13 container load of what can be termed the largest quantity of arms and ammunition into the country.
The discovery of the arms and ammunition which include rocket launchers, cartridges and hand grenades and others at the A P Moller Terminals in Apapa Port, brings to question the level of security in and around the country, especially in the light of the October 1 bomb blast during the nation’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The discovery of these deadly consignments at the nation’s seaport has also raised concerns about the security processes put in place by the many operatives before any cargo arrives, when it arrives and after it leaves the port environment. The fact that all these security agencies are present at the port during 100 percent physical examination of over 80 percent of all goods that come through the ports and borders, again raises the question about the usefulness and efficiency of that method of examining imports.
That all these security agencies partake in the 100 physical examination of imported goods, brings to fore the necessity of continuous reliance on this style of examination.
The reason for the introduction of the present Destination Inspection scheme which includes the Risk Assessment Report (RAR), helps authorities at the port to determine the level of risk of every shipment into the country and channel each to either Green which means there is low level risk, Yellow which means middle level risk and Red which is high level.
As it is, all consignments that fall into Green are allowed to go easily, those in Yellow are supposed to go through the scanning machine, while those in Red are to go for 100 percent examination. However, most importers and their agents on the one hand and the security operatives responsible for examination prefers to take all the containers for 100 percent examination. Again, the question is, why take over 75 percent of all imports for 100 percent examination which is cumbersome and time consuming?
With the scanning, one is able to examine the images produce by the scanning to determine the correctness of what is declared.
However, as the drama of the illegal importation of the arms and ammunition, including rocket launchers intercepted at the A. P. Moller Terminal in Apapa port by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS)continues to unfold, various security agencies have taken over the entire Apapa port Complex and has condoned off the area.
A day after the arms were intercepted, every visitor into the port complex, including reporters were duly registered and identified before being allowed to enter the port. Apart from the Customs agent who have been arrested in connection with the arms import, none of the agency staff has made any useful statement concerning the discovery.
The nation’s entire security agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force with its various units, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, State Security Services, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Security department of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) are all currently on hand and painstakingly opening the containers, removing item from their crates, analyzing them before re-packing them and putting them back into the containers.
Nigerians present at the examination of the content of the containers were shocked to their marrow and could not help in wondering aloud if some individuals actually planned to go to war with the Nigerian government.
Meanwhile, security agencies recorded a breakthrough in their investigation into the intercepted containers of rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons.
The Customs agent (names withheld) appointed by the yet-to-be apprehended importer has been arrested even as the Federal Government expressed alarm at the volume of the seized arms.
Vanguard Metro also gathered that the importer of the arms made every effort to beat security checks and even made moves to repackage the containers for export with a view to bringing in the arms through the porous borders.
National Security Adviser, retired Lt. General Owei Azazi, who spoke to newsmen after inspecting the seized arms said the government would not jump into conclusions until everything that had to do with the 13 containers were verified.
Azazi, who came in company of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, said government was alarmed at the volume of the arms import, adding that no stone would be left unturned to get to the bottom of the matter.
He said: “At this point, the only thing we can say is that we have some armament that were discovered at the port by the security agencies. We do not want to make any conclusion about what caliber of ammunition, where they are going or where they are coming from. We need a lot of verification and at the end of the day Nigerians will know what the issue is all about. Let us not jump into conclusion.
“We have discovered them and we will do whatever is required to make sure that everybody is protected. I think the SSS has a very good procedure and that is why these containers could not go unchecked.”