Pump Action Riffles
By our reporter
Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court, Lagos, today, fixed May 5, for the inspection of 1570 pump action guns, which were allegedly smuggled into the country by three businessmen and a company.The court fixed the date after the fourth prosecution witness in the trial gave his evidence before the court today.The businessmen who allegedly smuggled the weapons into the country between September 6 and 20, 2017 are: Ifeuwa Moses Christ, Ayogu Great James, Emeka Umeh Festus, who is at large and a limited liability company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited.The men of the Nigerian Customs Service, Tincan Port, Terminal delivered to him two containers containing the riffles for safe keeping.The fourth prosecution witness, Mohammed Usman Hassan, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, while being led-in-evidence by Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, said on October 20, 2017 two containers were brought by men of the NCS Tincan Port Unit, Slaps, Lagos and handed over to him for safe keeping at the Custom Bonded Warehouse, Federal Operation Unit, Ikeja, Lagos.
Hassan who is in charge of the Customs Warehouse, Ikeja, Lagos said on 100 percent examination of the first container, it contains among others, 1,100 Pump Action Rifles concealed with sanitary wares like washing hand basins , while the second container contained 470 Pump Action Rifles concealed with Plumbing materials.The witness said after the 100 percent examination of the containers and the counting of the guns, he signed a handover note which was tendered and admitted as exhibit.After the tendering of the handover note, counsel to the prosecution Mr Ajakaiye made an application to move the court to the locus sinquo ( scene of events) for the court to inspect the containers and the items physically.Consequent upon his application, Justice Saidu adjourned the matter till May 5, for the court to move to the location of the items.It would be recalled that at the last adjourned date, the third prosecution witness, Mr. Ayodele Joseph Rotimi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs (CSC), who was led in evidence by the prosecutor, told the court how on September 2017, at about 3 pm a call came through from the Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, that a container was found at terminal B1, of the Tincan Island Port, Lagos laden with arms and that the Enforcement Unit should mobilise men and materials to the site.He said on getting to the place, the container was found opened and that his team also confirmed that the container actually contained arms.
Ayodele said his team then requested for a letter to be made to the Terminal Manager to provide logistics to transfer the container to the Enforcement Unit. He added that the container was subsequently transferred the same day at about 6 p.m necessitating the shifting of the 100 percent examination till the next day.
The witness further stated that during examination, the entire content of the container was off loaded and stocks taken while the serial numbers of each of the rifles were taken.
Ayodele said that after the discovery of the arms-laden container, the Customs observed a trend of containers coming in from Turkey and that this necessitated the Area Comptroller of Customs directing his men to be on top alert by ensuring that the manifest of all cargoes from Turkey are properly scrutinized.
The witness said that while keeping watching of cargoes coming from Turkey, another container bearing the name of the first consignee , Great James Oil Gas Limited was also discovered. He said the country of the two containers was Turkey, adding that while the first container contained 1,100 Pump Action Rifles, the second container contained 470 Pump Action Rifles.
Ayodele added that after counting and taking stocks of the items in the containers with the serial numbers of the rifles written, the Area Comptroller directed that the two containers be handed over to the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) of the Nigerian Customs Service, Ikeja, Lagos, where the items in the containers were recounted and the serial numbers of the rifles re-confirmed and a handing over and taking over letter was signed.
The Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) through the Office of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) had earlier arraigned three men and a company before the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, for allegedly importing 1,570 pump action rifles into the country illegally.They were accused of conspiracy, illegal importation of firearms, forgery and altering of Customs’ import documents.
The offences, according to the prosecutor, Julius Ajakaiye, are contrary to and punishable under Sections 3(6), 1(14)(a), 1(14)(a)(i), 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecutor said the defendants conspired among themselves between September 6 to 20, 2017, to illegally and unlawfully import a total of 1, 570 pump action rifles into Nigeria, through Apapa Seaport, Lagos.
He also told the court that the accused loaded the said 1,570 pump action rifles in two 1× 20 feet containers marked GESU 2555208 and CMAU 1878178.
Ajakaiye explained to the court that the defendants in a bid to bring in the weapons unlawfully, altered and forged a bill of lading, issued in July 28, 2017, to read Guandong, China, instead of Istanbul, Turkey, which was written on the conveying container.
He added that they also altered Form M (application for Import) and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), issued in August 28, 2017, with number MF 20170080364 and CN 20170768490/001, respectively, to read Guandong, China instead of Istanbul, Turkey, as country of origin.
The defendants were also alleged to have altered a forged bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued in July 28, 2017, to read 230 packages of washing hand basins and W/C, as the content in the container used in shipping the illegal firearms.
Following the arraignment, the prosecutor urged the court to remand all the defendants to prison.
Although the prayer was opposed by the defence counsel, but the court ruled in favour of the prosecutor and ordered their remand in prison, as the charges against them borders on threat to national security.Dissatisfied with Justice Saidu’s ruling, the defendants headed to Appeal Court, challenging the ruling but their appeal was dismissed forcing them to face their trial at the court below.