2019: Security Tightened Up At Tin-can Island Port Over Arms Seizure

By Stephen Ubanna

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, gun-runners appear to be giving officials of the Nigeria Customs services, NCS, at the seaports  more job to do. This is because gun-runners have found the sea-port major out outlet to carry out their illegal arms importations.

Signs that Customs personnel at the seaports  would have a running battle  with politicians turned gun-runners  started  in 2016 when a consignment of 661 Pump Action Rifles released from Apapa  port  were  intercepted by the then Federal Operations Lagos Roving team headed by Adamu Mohammed, an Assistant Comptroller, now a Deputy Comptroller, in-charge of Enforcement, Western Marine Command, WMC, Apapa, Lagos.

The Apapa arms  import may have opened the flood gate for the gun -runners to divert their arms importation to Tin-can Island Command.  Between September 11, 2017 and September 21, 2017, alone , a total of 2,671  pump Actions from the European  country of Turkey were said to have  been discharged at the port but  fell into the waiting hands of  theCustoms personnel .

The discovery of the arms may have forced  Yusuf Barsha , the then  Comptroller of the Command  and now Comptroller, Pre- Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR, to order for a detailed profiling of all imports, particular, those coming from the same source with previous arms seizures.

The gun runners may have thought  that the deployment of  Yusuf to Customs Headquarters would turn the attention of the Customs personnel at the port, from implementing the policy  but got it wrong. Unknown to them, Musa Abdullahi , a World Customs Organisation, WCO and World Trade organisation, WTO, trained  officer , who had succeeded  Yusuf,  was not ready to change  the policy but fine -tune  the Command Operational Strategies to break into the ranks of the gun-runners.

Tin-can-island port

Between Monday, July  9 and  Tuesday, July10, 2018,  barely  four days to the Saturday, July 14, Ekiti  state , governorship election, the Command was said to have intercepted   catches of  ammunition in two separate operations. The interception of the Ammunition speak volume.

Giving an insider information,  Uche Ejesieme, a Superintendent of Customs  and the Command’s Spokesman  disclosed that  the first seizure was made at Terminal ‘C’,II Ports and Cargo, stressing  that it involved  a ”40” Container, No.TGHU60143419. Ejesieme disclosed that  the ammunition was  discovered in the Container  when it was subjected to scheduled physical Examination on suspicion like other Containers  positioned for Examination that Monday  at the terminal.  The Ammunition was said to have been Concealed with other goods.

The Customs Spokesman who could not hide his joy  over the seizures confirmed that  ”live ammunition and military Jack  Knives” were found in the Container, meaning that the gun-runners had at the back of their mind to pushing  the items  into  the Nigeria market , particular  the troubled states in the north and   Ekiti , where the July 14, 2018, governorship Election had been fixed .

The suspicion that the  Container might be carrying offensive weapons may have forced Abdullahi, the Customs  Comptroller to order the Container to  be transferred to the Command’ Enforcement Unit, Headed by Dera Nnadi , a Deputy Comptroller, where it was further Examined  and found to contain one hundred and fifty rounds of Live Ammunition and twenty  Eight pieces of various pies of military Jack  knives.

The Customs Spokesman who could not hide his feelings  said ” the imported items contravenes scheduled 4 Absolute Prohibition List item 17  of the   Common External Tariff  and section 46 of the Customs and excise  Management Act, CEMA, cap C45LFN 2004. Given the offensive weapon   found in the Container, the Magazine  learnt   the Customs Comptroller had  ordered Dera, the Deputy Comptroller, in-charge of the Command   Enforcement Unit to detain it and the contents.

More worrisome  was the items found in a Ford during routine Examination.  The Magazine gathered  that  the Command  during its routine Tally  Operations  on vehiclesdischarged from a vessel at Five Star Logistics Terminal, found a black bag in one unpacked ford Edge with Chassis  No. 2FMDK48C98BA05947.

Curious that the vehicle  might be carrying offensive weapons  may have forced  the Customs personnel at the terminal  to insist on physical during  Examination. Eye witness account   confirmed that 149 rounds of 38MM, 92 rounds of 9MM Live Ammunitions and  2 rounds of 7.62 MM, 11 Cartridges  were  discovered in the Ford. Other items allegedly found  in the vehicle  were 12 extended  empty shells of various Calibers and Empty Magazine.  That much was confirmed by Ejesieme , the Tin-can Island Customs Spokesman.

An aggrieved  Abullahi, the Tin-can Island Customs Comptroller , could not understand why desperate importers were allowing gun runners to  use Nigeria as an outlet for their illegal arms runs.  with the 2019 general Elections fast approaching.  It is not surprising why he has ordered the  Customs Intelligence  Unit  , CIU, to take up the investigation into the Ammunition importation.

At present, one suspect, according to the Tin-can Island Customs Spokesman  has been arrested  by  officers of the Enforcement Unit  on the advice of  the CIU and  currently  helping the Command in their investigation to track those who are still on the run as the deal had leaked out. Maritime analysts  believe that there is no way the gun runner could have gun into the arms  deal without getting a positive response backing from powers that be in Customs. This is because he may have made h his enquiries to sensitize the Customs about what  to import  and confide on close associates about the illegal importation. The assurance given to  the importer may have encouraged  him to dare  the Customs personnel at the port.

The Customs Comptroller may have spoken the mind of Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, when he aid  the Command would  do everything possible to fish out  all those remotely connected to the importation and bring to them to justice as a deterrence  to others.As  a prelude to this, he has continued to fine-tune the Operational Strategies of the Command as its CIU, officers are alive to their duties. The Command also  appear to be getting the support of other security agencies personnel who are all over the flash point terminals used  by the gun -runners, particular, Port and Cargo  and Five Star Logistics terminals.  They are  the Department of State Security, DSS , the Army and the police among other others.

Many believe that if Abdullahi and his officers had failed in their duty to  intercept the arms, it could have fallen into the waiting hands of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone, Operations and Lagos Roving Team Personnel positioned at strategic  locations between Oshodi and Apapa Express way.

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