Why there has been influx of illegal arms into Nigeria from Turkey —Experts
MARITIME security experts have assessed the incidence of illegal arms movement from Turkey to Nigeria. They attributed proliferation of illegal arms in Turkey to the existence of many terrorist and insurgent groups in and around the Middle East country.
A total of 2,671 pump action guns have been intercepted at the ports in Lagos this year, all from Turkey.
One of the experts, Mr Gbenga Oyewole, former Senior Special Assistant on Maritime Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, told Saturday Tribune that given the considerable number of extremist groups in Turkey, it is no surprise that arms have kept coming from there into Nigeria.
Oyewole said: “Arms cannot come illegally into Nigeria from countries like the United States of America and others in Europe because these countries have strict outlooks and positions on weapons distribution and movement to other countries. But it is no surprise that weapons keep coming into Nigeria from countries like Turkey, which have been ravaged by war and instability.
“Moving away from what is coming from Turkey, what have we done to protect ourselves from this kind of harmful imports? Why has the government not bought new scanners? The scanners at the ports are bad. Why has the government not bought new ones?”
Asked why he failed to push for the repair of the scanners by the Jonathan administration, of which he was a part, to forestall illegal importation of arms, Oyewole stated that “during the early stages of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led government, the scanners were under contract with the Destination Inspection firms.
“We pushed for their repair or upgrading, because the amount of cargoes those scanners were profiling was low compared to the amount of cargoes we were receiving at the ports. But anytime we made move to upgrade them, we were quickly reminded that those scanners were under the Destination Inspection firms.
“Customs took over the issuance of Form M and Risk Assessment in December 2013, at a time the government was already in election mood. The contract of those Destination Inspection firms had lasted almost the entire duration of the Jonathan administration, which I served as Senior Special Assistant on Maritime Affairs. Every effort we made on the scanners was not successful due to that Destination Inspection contract government signed with the private operators.”
In a separate interview, Mr Lucky Amiwero, a member of the Reconstituted Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), described what he called Nigeria’s inability to adopt the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Safe Framework of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade as the major reason arms shipment into the country has persisted.
“There is a serious concern about our import and export system and the vulnerability of the economy to terrorist exploitation due to our cargo inspection regime – Destination Inspection (DI) – which contravenes the WCO Safe Framework of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade.
“The Destination Inspection regime process allows the influx of unwholesome goods such as arms, ammunition and other contraband and causes reduction of revenue, which exposes the nation to serious security threats.
“Before the event of 9/11, the Customs authorities were responsible for the clearance of imported goods at the port of destination. The event of 9/11 precipitated a change in cargo inspection at port of loading due to monitoring of supply chain mechanism of unwholesome products and revenue manipulation at destination.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the convention of the WCO Safe Framework of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade, which provides multilayered set of standards for container/cargo security, developed to enhance security, increase revenue and facilitate international trade through the following two pillars: Customs-to-Customs (C2C) and Customs-to- Business (C2B). The Customs-to-Customs (C2C) pillar provides for cooperation between Customs authorities in order to inspect cargos before they arrive at the destination ports on outbound and inbound of non-instructive inspection (NII). The Custom-to- Business (C2B) pillar aims to create an international system for identifying private businesses that offer a high degree of security/integrity.
“Nigeria currently practises Destination Inspection (DI) of import, which allows goods to be imported into the country without inspection, which contravenes various provisions of Customs-to-Customs standards on WCO Safe Framework of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade.
“The Destination Inspection process of import on cargo allows the illicit cross-border movement of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), drugs, arms, ammunition, counterfeit merchandise, hazardous waste and human trafficking as is presently practised in Nigeria, which allows goods into Nigeria without pre-screening to identify high risk goods before shipment.
“The process of no inspection/pre-screening of goods coming into Nigeria poses greater security risk by the influx of arms, ammunition, contraband, narcotics, explosives, e.g., dirty bombs and weapon of mass destruction (WMD) and unwholesome items into the country, in contravention of standards 2, 3 and 11 of the WCO Safe Framework of Standard.”
It will be recalled that a 40-ft container load of 661 pump action guns from Turkey was seized in Lagos on January 22, 2017. On May 24, another container load of 440 pump action guns from Turkey was intercepted at the Tin-Can Ports in Lagos. The latest arms shipment from Turkey, a container with 1,100 pump action guns, was seized on September 11, prompting the Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hamid Alli (rtd), to say that some of the bad canners will be repaired.
During the week, Col. Alli has said that with the quantum of arms being shipped illegally into Nigeria from Turkey, it is evident that Nigeria was under threat.
His alarm came against the backdrop of the seizure of yet 470 pump-action rifles imported into the country from Turkey.
He said during the display of the rifles, on Thursday, that: “This latest seizure, a 20-foot container with number CMAU189817/81 containing 470 pump-action guns from Turkey was falsely declared to contain elbow plumbing plastics on its Bill of Laden. The seizure came about when the Tin-Can Customs Area Controller, Mr Yusuf Bashir, ordered a detailed profiling of all imports, especially those coming from the same source of previous arms seizures.”
However, it was not confirmed on Friday whether or not a meeting which Ali said he would hold with the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria was held.
Spokesman of the Customs Service was not forthcoming on whether the meeting held.
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