By Kingsley Omonobi, Daniel Idonor, Godwin Oritse & Ifeyinwa Obi
ABUJA—WORRIED by the recent seizure of arms and ammunition in Apapa Ports, Lagos, the Federal Government, yesterday, ordered the beefing up of security at all the nation’s airports and seaports and stricter surveillance at border posts.
The government gave the order after a high level security meeting between the National Security Adviser, NSA, General Andrew Azazi (rtd), and top security chiefs which lasted over five hours.
This came as more facts emerged on how an official who was shortchanged on a deal in the importation leaked the information that led to the interception.
A foreigner, Customs agent of the importer and one other person are already in custody over the incident.
Vanguard investigations revealed that at the end of the security talks, it was resolved that all security operatives at all border posts be put on red alert, until and after May 29, 2011 handover date.
At the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, Oluseyi Petirin; Director General of the State Security Services, SSS; and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA.
Also in attendance were the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and other heads of security agencies in the country.
Vanguard sources said that following the arms haul, the Federal Government had directed stricter security presence at the Apapa Ports, the Onne Port and other major ports across the country to forestall the use of such routes for arms shipments into the country.
Navy placed on alert
A highly placed security source told Vanguard that the Nigeria Navy has been instructed to keep keen eyes on most of the dreaded routes in the nation’s territorial waters to stem any possible shipment of arms into the country through such routes.
“The Navy is put on the alert and has been instructed to strictly monitor all the water ways so that nobody can ship any arm into the country. The President is concerned over the matter of arms proliferation in the country and he wants everything possible to be done to reduce it”.
President Jonathan had told the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, last month that Nigeria will spearhead the campaign against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons stressing that the presence of such small arms in the continent of Africa had led to the death of millions of people.
Meanwhile, a retired Army Colonel who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity said that owners of the deadly cargo had allegedly offered monies to some Government officials who in the process of moving money around short changed an official who then leaked the information to the SSS and burst the deal.
The Colonel explained that the security agencies made a mistake by intercepting the container and raising alarm over the interception. He stated that what the security agencies ought to have done was to ensure the clearance of the containers and trail them to their final destination, noting that the owners of the consignment would have been arrested.
The war veteran told Vanguard the war heads were capable of causing massive destruction if they are detonated..
Vanguard also learnt that security agencies were working on the theory that the Apapa Port shipment was not the only one dispatched to the country and that other penetrating inlets into the country like the nation’s borders with countries such as Seme, Chad, Cameroon and Benin would have been taken into consideration as ‘Plan B’.
Security at airports, border posts
Consequently, the source said all airports, border areas and many of the seaports which hitherto were looked at as less harmful to national security, are to be given high alert status since experience has shown that “those behind these desperate measures, would go to any length to move in more weapons and achieve their aim.”
Speaking on the arms seizure, former Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Godwin Ombu (rtd) said it was the responsibility of all stakeholders in the port to ensure a well secured maritime environment. He noted that there was lack of cohesion amongst security operatives in the port on the recent illegal importation of arms and ammunition .
On the volume of arms import, the former Naval “chief said that the current maritime security agencies will find it difficult to rise to the present security challenges in the ports if they are not well equipped.
Ombu who spoke at the Nigerian Maritime Exposition 2011 meeting stated that the issue of maritime security is the responsibility of every stakeholder adding that maritime security agencies alone cannot cope with the challenges.
He said “Maritime security is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the maritime industry, and security operatives in the ports cannot cope with all the security threat we experience every day at the ports. We as individuals, we are not a security friendly people, we are also not a security conscious people.
“On the importation of the illegal arms, there will continue to be bad people everywhere in every country in the world and whatever policies the government brings these evil people will find a way to circumvent them.
“The problem we have in the country is that we are not security conscious at our ports. Secondly, our maritime security agencies will find it difficult to get the equipment to meet the responsibility that is given them.
“Thirdly and unfortunately there is no cohesion within our maritime security agencies. We do not speak together and we have no avenue to sit down and talk together to analyze the situations, go home and see what we can do to pro-actively solve the problem
NIMAREX will be one of such forum that will bring out these lapses so that both the government and all will know that we really must do something about our maritime security so that we can checkmate such evil in our society”.
Comptroller General of the Nigerian Custom Service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi, who visited APM Terminal to inspect the seized containers hailed security agencies that intercepted the 13 containers of ammunition for their diligence and competence.
He said: “What I’ve seen today shows that Nigerians are very prayerful, but I want to advise that one should trust our government and have confidence in our leaders, that is the only way we can move forward.
“The cargo did not come with RAR or Form M. There was an attempt to clear it and it showed that there was query in documentation. So, we have a very solid system. The irregularities were detected during the clearing process. I want you to be rest assured that investigation still continues because we’ll not allow it to be swept under the carpet because this country belongs to all of us”.