…Customs seizes 470 rifles, writes government in Turkey on arms syndicate
…Begins profiling containers on the high sea
By Udeme Clement
The influx of arms and ammunition into Nigeria from Turkey has taken a new dimension, as the Tincan Island Command of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, intercepted another 470 pump action rifles imported into the country from Turkey.
This is happening only few days after the same Command seized 1,100 rifles smuggled into Nigeria also from Turkey, thereby bringing the number of rifles seized in the last eight months to 2,671.
Observation at the scene of inspection:
Sunday Vanguard during inspection of the deadly weapons by the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Hameed Ali, with the Customs Area Controller, CAC, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, zone ‘A’, Ikeja, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, the CAC of Tincan Island Command, Comptroller Bashar Yusuf and top officers of the Service, observed that the rifles were of two types, black and silver, but of the same calibre.
Also, the rifles were packed in long carton boxes and concealed with thousands of soil pipes components in plastic bags like materials imported for construction work. It took the efforts and intelligence of officers who embarked on thorough examination to uncover the arms.
Security implications of arms influx into Nigeria:
According to CGC Ali, “Influx of arms into the country has consequences on national security of Nigeria. Sadly, the trend has developed despite the past seizures. The syndicate has not relented and that is why we often carry out 100percent physical examination to prevent such dangerous weapons from coming into our country.
The people behind this act of criminality has a syndicate in Turkey working with them. Investigation is on-going to unravel the syndicate. We are taking this issue beyond Nigeria to know why these rifles are coming from one particular country. We are going to meet with the government of Turkey to deliberate on this alarming trend of arms influx into Nigeria from Turkey.
The challenge before CGC Ali:
With the current trend of arms smuggling, the challenges before Ali who has made impressive records in the last two years as the Customs Boss are enormous. While inspecting the items, Ali’s displeasure on the arms seizure was seen in his speech and gesture. As he moved nearer to the scene, his eyes were fixed straight on the cartons of rifles displayed in the open. Also, during the inspection of 1,100 rifles, Ali walked speedily like one whose head was on “fire”, ready to battle the arms syndicate.
He said, “This trend poses a threat to national security in Nigeria and must be stopped. This was among the issues President Muhammadu Buhari spoke on at the UN Assembly. At present, all Customs Commands at the land borders and seaports are on red alert. Customs must use its intelligence, resources, advanced technology and skills to stop illicit items from coming into Nigeria without any compromise.
We must always be ahead of what is happening at the seaports, land borders and every part of our country. We are going to open discussion with the Ambassador of Turkey on this issue. We have sea patrol vessels and will begin using them the moment guns are mounted on them. We will involve National Intelligence Agency, NIA, because they deal with international issues. Our vessels need guns on them to prevent sea pirates from attacking them on the high sea. We must continue to carry out the mandate entrusted on us within the framework of the law.
The law empowers Customs to patrol the roads and search any premises once there is suspicion on illicit items. In the previous seizure of arms, officers were rewarded for their commitment and due diligence. But now, we are coming up with standards operational procedures that will attract promotion for officers who intercepted these deadly weapons for handling such a delicate task successfully.
Strategies mapped out by Tincan CAC to curb the menace:
Comptroller Bashar Yusuf, who is known to be very skillful and competent in Customs operations is now using profiling technique to track containers with illicit items from a viessel on the high sea. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria Customs that the technique of profiling cargo in a vessel from the sea, until it is intercepted at the point of entry has recorded a major success in arms seizure. This technique used by Tincan CAC to intercept the 470 pump action rifles has attracted commendations to the Command.
Bashar said, “We monitored that container with the rifles from the vessel on the sea using profiling data of the documents attached to it , until we intercepted it at the entry point. So, the question about which terminal the arms landed does not arise.”
Now Ali has drown the battle line. He is beaming his searchlight on the shippers, warning that he must meet with the shippers in the maritime industry, even as he said that the Cabotage Act will come into play, at ensuring that appropriate sanctions are given to shipping companies bringing deadly cargoes into Nigeria.