Examination officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), have impounded a cache of arms and ammunition which were allegedly concealed and smuggled into the country through the Ports and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML), Tincan Island, Apapa, Lagos.
The contents of the container were declared to be just two vehicles and other household items, but the examination officers, who were said not to have relied on the declaration, also arrested the agent simply identified as Chimbudike Agency.
Though the importer, whose identity is yet to be revealed is said to be on the run, Efforts are now ongoing to apprehend the importer who is said to be on the run, with officials of US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) helping to bring him to justice, since he reportedly resides in America.
The arms were said to have been skillfully concealed inside two vehicles – one fairly used 1999 GMC SUV with Chassis No. 764650 and one fairly used 2004 Crysler 300 car with Chassis No. 629127, containing household items and arranged inside a P & O Nedlloyd container with registration number: PONU 8061808.
Some of the itinerary of the weapons, which included one Smith and Weston shot gun, one revolver and one Bushnel Sniper Rifle Model 710, also had 52 rounds of 38mm calibre, 48 rounds of 9mm calibre and 38 rounds of 9.0mm calibre ammunition, and some empty magazines.
Speaking to journalists Tuesday at the terminal after an on-the-spot assessment of the weaponry, the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Tajudeen Olanrewaju, said the discovery underlined the efficiency, alertness and thoroughness of the examination officers at PTML.
“This cargo arrived from the United States at 2.20 pm on Monday, September 16, and the declaration on the documents were the vehicles and household items. Since this terminal is known for automobile clearance, it was normal for them to have brought in the vehicles through here.
“But it was in the process of examination for confirmation of the model and year of manufacture, because the excise duty is based on that, that the examination officers who were very professional discovered the items.
“The vehicle and other items which included households materials were confirmed but there was no mention of the arms and ammunition in the declaration.”
Olanrewaju who lauded the diligence of the officers said the weapons would have entered the country.
“The cargo could have gone into the country because the owner would probably have paid the duty and he would have cleared the container and the arms and ammunition would have entered the country illegally.
“So it is important that customs officers in this command do not rely on declarations alone and it is to the credit of the intelligence unit.”
Olanrewaju added that everybody needed to be more security conscious and alert particularly at the borders.
He said: “The statutory functions of the NCS are revenue collection, anti-smuggling, trade facilitation and security. This is the security aspect of our operations that we carried out now.
“It shows that we are up and doing in the area of security because the mode of concealment was very skillfully done and it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for somebody to detect.”
While admitting that concealment is an issue at the borders because people don’t declare items that are prohibited and harmful to the society, he said what the importer did to conceal was not strange, but that the customs agents were up to the task too.
“There was an arrest because the agent made the declaration. We haven’t seen the importer because they don’t come to the ports but are represented by the agent, he added.
“The agent has since claimed ignorance and he is helping us in gathering information. We are still investigating. But legally, for concealment, we seize the container and beyond seizure, we look at the security implications.”