October 28, 2010

SEIZED ROCKETS, GRENADES: How they were intercepted

Part of the rockets in 13 containers containing rockets and other weapons of mass destruction at the Apapa Wharf Port in Lagos. Photo:By Diran Oshe

By Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere, Albert  Akpor & Ifeyinwa Obi

LAGOS—FACTS emerged, yesterday, that the 13 containers of rockets, grenades and other weapons intercepted at the Apapa Port, Lagos, by the State Security Service, SSS, were imported into the country with forged documents. The fake documentation aroused the suspicions of security agencies.

A reliable source at the ports told Vanguard that “the containers had no form “M” and Risk Assessment Report, RAR, which are the documents showing what the containers are carrying. The dud nature of the document aroused the suspicions of the security agents.”

The source said: “The documents filed in for the clearance of the containers were all forged as the name which the Licenced Customs Agent who was to clear the container was not indicated in the customs cyber. The container did not follow the normal clearing procedure and even the agent used a fake licence to clear the containers.

Every container must have form “M” and its suspicious these ones had nothing. We actually thought it was contraband but it turned out to be something worse.”

The source explained that the security agents, therefore, decided to  watch  the containers since October 2, when the vessel arrived and the dangerous consignments discharged.

Importer’s agent

He said that it started the clearing process three weeks ago when the security agencies moved in.

Vanguard further 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 our porous borders.

Vanguard investigation revealed that the seized rockets  were manufactured in 2008, and  measured 107mm with registration number 1088. They weighed 1.8kg each.

Vanguard also learnt that the 13 containers actually came into the examination bay of A P Moller Terminal on October 2, 2010.

It was learnt that the importer, with the help of his agent, did everything to have the containers transferred to a Bonded Warehouse Facility so as to beat security checks.

Our investigation revealed that when the attempt to transfer the containers failed, the importers decided to re-package them for export with a view to moving them to a neighbouring country and smuggling them into Nigeria through the porous borders.

Meanwhile the security operatives have arrested the Customs Agent (names withheld) appointed by the yet to be apprehended importer.

NSA visits

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 the 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.”

Asked if the importation of the arms had anything to do with the forthcoming elections the nation’s chief security officer said: “I do not know yet until we find out more.”

Confirming the arrest of the importer, the South West Zonal Coordinator of National Task Force to Combat the Importation of illegal Contraband and Small Arms, Dr. Ayo Omotosho said the importer’s agent who has been arrested would not be disclosed for security reasons..

Spokesperson of the National Task Force to Combat the Importation of Illegal Goods, Contraband and Small Arms, Mr. Jeff Imo, told Vanguard that the arms importation was a testimony that there was proliferation of dangerous weapons among Nigerians.

He said the task force was still trying to update its structures in the South West zone of the country, adding that before the end of next week, they would have been very visible in every border post and seaport across the southern part of the country.

Meanwhile, the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization, has commended officials of the nation’s security services, the Police, State Security Services, SSS, Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, for their interception of the illegal arms shipment.

The organization’s Director of Media and Publicity Committee, Mr. Sully Abu, in a statement, expressed satisfaction at the vigilance of the agencies which led to the discovery of this dangerous cargo.

Sinister agenda

He said: “By this interception, the security services have saved Nigerians from mortal danger. It is obvious that the evil minds behind the importation of these arms have a sinister agenda. They must be exposed and brought to book.

The organization called on security agencies and Nigerians at large to be very vigilant at this time, noting that Nigerians should expose the few desperate ones who were hell_bent on disrupting the peace and orderliness of our land.

Reacting to the arms seizure, the Acting Inspector-General of Police Mr. Hafiz Ringim yesterday expressed shock over the discovery of large catchment of arms and ammunition at the Tin Can Island Port assuring that the police will get to the root of the matter.

The police boss in a telephone chat with Vanguard said, “Honestly I do not know what to say, it is shocking.  The incident would be thoroughly investigated.