ONE of the importers of the 661 pump action guns intercepted by officials of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A along Mile 2 axis of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway allegedly bribed government officials at the seaports in order to evade examination of the 40-feet container containing the arms.
This was revealed when the Federal Government arraigned five men for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority. The arms were intercepted by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service on January 30, 2017.
The accused persons: Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye and Salihu Danjuma said to be at large, were arraigned before Justice Ayokunle Faji at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the accused brought the rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave one million naira to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.
According to the prosecution, in order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
Consequently, the prosecuting counsel, K.A. Fagbemi, applied for a date to commence trial but urged the court to order that the accused should be remanded in the prison custody pending trial.
Justice Faji adjourned the case till September 12, 2017 for definite hearing and ordered that the accused be remanded in the prison custody.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
It would be recalled that the container carrying the 661 pump action guns were not examined before leaving the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), thereby flouting Customs regulations that all inbound and outbound containers must be subjected to examination by the Nigerian Customs Service.