By Akoma Chinweoke & Udeme Clement
Recently, 13 containers of arms and ammunition, including rocket launchers, mortars, live cartridges and grenades were intercepted at the A.P. Moller Terminals in Apapa Port, Lagos.
Barely one month later, the Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) Customs Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) intercepted 76 rounds of live ammunition and a spent bullet concealed in two vehicles. Sunday Vanguard spoke to maritime experts on the implications of arms shipment into Nigeria.
Government should intensify effort to check arms shipment – Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, president of Nigerian Academy of Science and former VC, Unilag:
I am surprised that smuggling of arms is still going on despite the huge presence of numerous government agencies at the ports. We have a system in place that should take care of that especially with the installation of scanners and other devices that could detect what is coming into our ports. But we manipulate these equipments the way we like thereby exposing our economy into serious danger
Also, each container is numbered and the ship carrying it registered for proper identification and tracking. The anomaly could be effectively checked scientifically if we learn to do things right but it requires political will.
Security agencies should be very much at alert.- Comrade O. Onikolease Irabor, former president-general, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and deputy national president, NLC:
Generally, arms importation is condemnable and every patriot should condemn the act . We are not in Iraq neither are we in a war. I don’t know why anybody should have business with arms importation into the country. The perpetrators have to be dealt with by law.
There should be no room for double standards because when some are caught in the act, you would see a lot of manipulations. One or two persons should be used as a deterrent. Those who import arms to destroy the nation have their hidden agenda and that is why it keeps happening .
So, I call on the Federal Government to take the matter very serious. The port is not meant for the importation of arms and ammunition and all stakeholders in the industry should be vigilant. The rate at which these arms find their way into the port is getting to a very alarming proportion and, if not checked, we all would be living under the gun powder as those behind the act have no love for the country..
Our politicians should learn to seek for power genuinely. The security agencies should be commended for a job well done . That is why we are saying that government should not hands off totally from port operation for as much as they have concessioned it to private operators, the security agencies should be very much at alert. NPA also should be empowered fully to regulate port activities as things were not as bad as this when the body was fully in charge. Government must ensure that they check every item that comes into the country.
Intelligence gathering in our port operations should be stepped up – Chief Gerald N. Chidi, former managing director , NNSL, and chairman Cargo Services Limited:
What is happening today is unexpected in a way because Nigeria had pre-shipment inspection which implies that all cargoes coming into the country must be examined at the port of loading . The cargo inspectors possibly are not doing their work but in order to make some changes, cargo inspection is also being done at destinations.
This means that scanners are supposed to be in all the ports to be able to detect whatever is in the container or any form of package used in sending these goods to Nigeria , whether these are being done religiously, I don’t know but I believe that there must be some negligence somewhere. Also, the Cargo Tracking Note, CTN, was introduced to make sure that cargoes coming into the country reflects its true content.
With all these precautions, we still have the influx of arms and ammunition and I find it difficult to understand . So, we need to step up intelligence gathering as far as our port operations is concerned.
Those who engage in the illicit trade must have done their home work to find out about the porous nature of our port and the type of people they are going to use to achieve their aim. It is difficult to say whether the arms running has direct bearing with upcoming elections . There are a lot of arms in the hands of unauthorized people and this is why there is a high wave of crime in the country especially with the Niger-Delta crisis.
Also, there is a lot of bunkering going on and chances are that some of these arms are traded in for crude oil . However, there is no situation that cannot be dealt with if those who are taking action are fair in making sure that those who are culpable are being punished The matter is a serous one and should not be treated with kid gloves. We need to be decisive on whoever is involved to serve as deterrent to others.
Nigeria ’s economic environment must be protected for local and foreign investments to thrive – National president, NAGAFF, Mr. Eugene Nweke:
There is urgent need for government and relevant security agencies in the country to be alert on the type of imports coming into the country through the marine environment. Nigeria’s economic environment must be protected for local and foreign investments to thrive. Government and relevant security agencies in the country must put measures in place to secure the waterways effectively. The security operatives monitoring the country’s territorial waters must be well equipped to handle the task efficiently.
There must be cooperation between maritime agencies in trying to analyse the situation with a view to solving the problem of maritime security in the country. Ship owners must be enlightened on the security implication of bringing deadly weapons into the country through the waterfront. Government must fast-track the investigation process to uncover the culprits behind the importation of the 13 containers of arms into the country.
Our security operatives must intensify effort in doing things right and there is urgent need for international collaboration to ensure efficient security network in the system. As a matter of urgency, appropriate authorities must give indemnity to credible agents and freight forwarders operating in the country
FG should fast track investigation process – National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Olayiwola Shittu,- Illegal importation of dangerous weapons into the country, poses serious security threat to the marine environment and Nigeria ’s economy as a whole.
We want government to speed up the investigation process with a view to publishing those behind this ugly deal. Some people are going about in the port exploiting importers in the name of Presidential task force. Why didn’t the task force detect the arms and ammunitions if truly they are protecting the interest of the people?
Since security agencies believe that it is only in the ports that they could operate, we want the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Civil Defence and LASTMA officials to come into the ports. We have decided to set up our own task force to monitor to monitors”
With the way things are going, we have realised that the job of clearing agents in the country is very risky as the importers would just bring in containers and give the agents to clear without disclosing the nature of items inside. We have also decided that there must be provision of indemnity for clearing agents because of nature of their job.