It has become normal for large cache of arms to be seized at our nation’s sea ports. In fact, it appears to be a regular occurrence. And in a country suffering from many insurgencies, militancy, terrorism, kidnapping, communal clashes and armed robbery, it has become important for the security agencies to step up their games. The other day, the Nigeria Customs Service ,NCS again intercepted and seized 1,100 pump action rifles at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos. This is probably the biggest arms haul in the Lagos Port, this year. The arms were reportedly discovered in a 20-foot container that originated from Turkey. The container was falsely declared to contain “wash-hand basins and water closets.”
While speaking to the media in a press conference in Lagos, the Comptroller-General of NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (retd) disclosed that two people, including a Customs officer, have been arrested. This is the third time this year that arms are being intercepted at Tin Can Island Port. The operatives of NCS had in January seized 661 pump action rifles concealed in 40 boxes. Similarly in May, the eagle-eyed officers of NCS seized 440 pieces of assorted pump action rifles concealed in a 40-feet container. All the three containers originated from Turkey. So far, 2,201 pump action rifles have been seized at the Tin Can Island Port since this year. Ali also said that the previous two cases are already in court.
We commend the officers of the NCS for the latest arms seizure and urge them to remain vigilant and patriotic in carrying out their duties. We say this because those involved in this nefarious act may also bring in more deadly weapons in future. The unbridled proliferation of arms in the country is distressful and we hereby denounce it. The several arms seizures may have aided the rise in criminal activities in the country. The illegal importation of arms will likely worsen the country’s security situation. Therefore, we call for proper investigation of this matter to determine those involved in the importation. Apart from the two persons already arrested in connection with the seizure, all others involved in the arms deal must be nailed and tried according to the laws of the land.
The greater tragedy is the many porous borders we have in the country. The suspicion is that asides from these seizures, there could be other larger but not seized consignments which find their ways into the country through these porous borders or through bribes. By arresting clearing agents and Customs officers, the job is yet to be done. There is the need and concern for security agencies to apprehend those sponsoring the importation of the deadly consignments too. There must be a linkage between the weapons and some of the crises we have in the nation to get the big names that may be responsible for the importation of the deadly cargo. The purpose for the importation of the arms, either for insurrection, political violence or for sale, must also be established.
And all those found guilty must be adequately punished to discourage others from toeing the same path in future. On no account should this matter be swept under the carpet. And no suspect should be treated as a sacred cow. There is no doubt that putting the arms into wrong hands could compound our already problematic security situation. The country is saddled with insurgency, herdsmen menace, kidnapping, armed robbery and other security challenges.
We are particularly worried that the illegal arms are coming in closer to the 2019 general elections. The scenario is a cause for serious concern to security agents. We call on the NCS authorities to reward the commitment and diligence of the officers and punish those who compromised their positions for filthy lucre. Besides, we enjoin all officials of the NCS, especially those working at the ports, to be diligent and patriotic at all times.
Very important is the fact that all the arms seized this year originated from Turkey, government should step up the pre-shipment inspection to avoid our country being a dumping ground for illicit arms. Government should also engage with her Turkish counterpart to find solution to this problem. We also call for speedy and open trial of all those involved in the illegal arms haul, especially those whose cases are already in court. The Nigerian people should be made to know those behind these importations.