Hostile communities, vast borderline affecting efforts against arms proliferation —Customs
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has identified the very large territorial border line of Nigeria and hostile disposition towards its officers by border communities as a major setback in its effort at tackling arms proliferation into the country.
Speaking exclusively to Nigerian Tribune, deputy national spokesman for the NCS, Timi Bomodi, explained that the friendlier border communities become to officers of the NCS, the more likely the efforts to curb proliferation of arms will become more enhanced. According to Bomodi, “it has been the same challenge we have been facing over the years in our efforts to curb proliferation of arms, that is, challenge of size of the country and hostile disposition towards our men by border communities.
Also speaking on the menace of arms proliferation, the national spokesman for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), DC Sunday James, explained that the Service is not mandated to stop arms proliferation.
“It is not within our purview to check for arms proliferation along the nation’s borders. Our mandate is solely the human elements at the borders. It is the NCS and the Nigerian Police Force that have such mandate.
“However, if in the course of carrying out our mandate, we stumble on persons carrying arms, we are to hand such person or groups over to the appropriate authorities. We cannot arrest such person or groups, but we can hand them over to the Customs or the police. Ours is to check the human elements at the border and other entry points of the nation.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians are expressing worries over the high spate of arms circulating in the hands of criminals around the country.
The fears being raised have become aggravated on the premise that those behind such illegal activities may also want to capitalise on the near breakdown in the national security and the coming 2023 elections to further smuggle in arms through the airports, seaports and other borders.
Key players across the aviation sector are, however, tasking the Customs at the airport command to be more vigilant in ensuring that illegal arms are not smuggled into the country through the cargo terminal of the airport.
Some are of the opinion that with the kind of security gadgets like screening machines at the airport, it may be almost impossible for anyone to use the airport to bring in dangerous items.
A former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed Airport and now Managing Director of Centurion Security Services, Group Captain John Ojikutu, said arms smuggling could only happen through the cargo axis of the airport, but stated that with a reliable Customs intelligence that has good relationship with contemporary organisations like the WTO, the Nigerian customs can always get pre-departure information on every incoming cargo.
He called on the police to stop the continual issuance of licenses until there is an effective control of the various forms of insurgency in the country, adding: “We need to establish a single line of control for border and airport security which must include the control of the Customs, Immigration, among others, as the Transport Safety Administration of the United States. “We need to establish a credible national intelligence agency that should be providing the responsible authorities on national security actionable intelligence.”
For the Chief Executive Officer of Selective, who is also an aviation security expert and consultant, Mr Ayo Obilana, he said while most of the arms being paraded by bandits and other criminals around the country presently are among those smuggled into the country, it is not certain that they were smuggled into the country through the airports.
A top member of the cargo agents at the Lagos airport, Mr Aloy Igwe, said with the arrangements and security put in place around the cargo terminal of the Lagos airport, smuggling of arms into the country was not possible.
Efforts to speak with the Customs did not yield as one of the officers spoken to declined to state how the government agency is trying to prevent the smuggling of firearms through the cargo terminal.
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