Abuja and Lagos — The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Tin Can Island Command tuesday intercepted another container suspected to contain yet another cache of arms imported from Turkey.
The interception came barely one week after the command intercepted a 20-foot container load of 1,100 pump action rifles.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the container with number, CMAU189817/8 is believed to contain about 475 pump action rifles.
THISDAY gathered at the port that the pump action rifles were discovered after the Customs Area Comptroller of the Command, Comptroller Bashir Yusuf, ordered a detailed profiling of the importer of the 1,100 rifles intercepted last week.
After the detailed profiling, it was discovered that the container belonged to the same importer.
This seizure is the third in the series of containers loads of arms seizure at Tin-Can port alone and fourth in the country within eight months.
A source who witnessed the examination of the container told THISDAY that the rifles were concealed with small connecting pipes.
According to the source, "The container was owned by the same importer of the 1,100 guns. After a detailed profiling of the importer ordered by the Area Comptroller, it was discovered that he still has another container inside the port, so they fished it out.
"But I don't know why they are hiding the identity of the importer; it could even be the government themselves importing these weapons."
However, when contacted the National Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah, said a container was suspected and its yet to be examined to know what is inside.
"Let's not speculate about arms please. A container is being suspected and examination will reveal whatever is inside," he said in a short SMS.
The Comptroller General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had last Monday displayed 1,100 rifles imported into Tincan port from Turkey.
The customs CG said the 20ft container was originally declared to contain wash hand basins and water closets.
He said: "On September 6, 2017, operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence unit on a routine monitoring of activities across the terminals discovered a 1x20ft container with number, GESU2555208 which was not previously listed for examination positioned with other containers for the day's examination.
"They also observed that the seal of this unlisted container had already been cut and padlocked. The container became suspect and had to be immediately transferred to the enforcement unit."
Upon thorough examination, the container contained 600 pieces of Jojef Magnum black pump action; 300 pieces of Jojef Magnum Silver pump action and 209 pieces of Jojef Magnum Plastic single barrels hunting gun pump action rifles.
"Importation of 1100 rifles at a time when the nation is undergoing some security challenges is a clear indication that there are indeed some elements who do not believe in the unity, peace and well being of Nigeria.
Also, the NCS has announced a significant break in its drive to checkmate the smuggling of vehicles through the land borders with the seizure of what it described as 18 high-profile and exotic bullet-proof cars smuggled through the land borders.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Ali, who made the disclosure in Abuja tuesday, said the vehicles were impounded from Kefiano Motors Limited, an auto dealer in Abuja via credible information sourced by the detachment of the compliance team of the NCS.
All the impounded vehicles, Ali said, apart from been bullet proof, do not have proper evidence of paid customs duties and do not have the 'end user certificate', which statutorily must accompany vehicles of that level.
"Beyond the issue of non-payment of customs duty, 13 of these vehicles are Bullet Proof. These vehicles require clearance from the office of the National Security Adviser before importation. In a period of fragile security, we cannot afford to have unauthorised persons use armored vehicles. Without End User Certificates, possession of these vehicles is illegal," he said.
Giving details of the vehicles which were parked at the NCS's headquarters in Abuja, the customs boss said the vehicles seized included two Range Rovers, one Rolls Royce, four Lexus, three G Wagons, two Prado SUVs, one Lincoln Navigator, one Infinity, one 4matic , two Toyota Sequoia, and one Toyota Camry.
He said: "Let it be known that being in possession of smuggled item is an offence punishable under section 3 of Customs and Excise (Special Penal and Other Provision) Act Cap 47 laws of federation of Nigeria 2004," adding that the law on 'possession of smuggled items' which had hitherto been idle in the operation of the NCS would be activated to allow for the prosecution of those indicted in illegal smuggling to up to one year imprisonment without an option of fine.
He urged vehicle buyers and customs officers to go through due process in acquiring and documenting vehicles to avoid undue stress and embarrassment.
He lamented that it was unfortunate that "the Service zero stands on smuggling continue to expose unwillingness of most Nigerian importers to comply with the law," stressing that "these unpatriotic elements willingly comply with the laws of other countries, but refuse to comply with our National guidelines on imports and exports."
"High profile interceptions such as these are testimonies of the positive effects of the ongoing reform activities in the service," he said.
Reacting to reports that some smugglers had started hiding such cars in private homes, Ali explained that the customs service was empowered by Section 158 of CEMA, Cap 45, Laws of Federation of Nigeria to freely patrol into any residence on suspicion of harbouring smuggled cars for the purpose of seizure.
"In the last two months, the service had stepped up its implementation of the federal government's ban on importation of vehicles through land borders and we shall continue to do so.
"For those who may want to test the service' resolve to maintain the new tempo of aggressive anti-smuggling operations, let me restate management's readiness to sustain the tempo and even increase it by acquiring more working tools that will boost effectiveness." he said.
He stated that the re-invigorated anti-smuggling drive by the service had led to the seizure of 135 vehicles in Lagos (Zone A), 93 in Kaduna (Zone B), and 37 in Port Harcourt (Zone C).