Customs seize N18bn firearms, drugs from Turkey, recover 844 rifles


customsThe Nigerian Customs Services has intercepted and seized arms and ammunition worth N18.23bn in a drastic step to curb the smuggling of illicit items into the country through its borders.

It said the 848 rifles and 112,500 rounds of live ammunition, as well as illicit drugs, were intercepted at the Onne Port in Rivers State in containers originating from Turkey.

The Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adeniyi, said this while displaying the seized items during a news briefing at the Nigeria Customs Service, Port Harcourt Area II Command, Onne on Monday.

The CGC said the illegal arms were concealed in other items inside a 1X40 foot container ‘MAEU165396’, while the drugs found in different cartons were in nine containers.

One of our correspondents gathered that the rifles and ammunition were concealed using various items such as doors, furniture, plumbing fittings, and leather bags.

The displayed exhibits include nine containers: one holding seized arms and ammunition valued at N4.17bn, six containing seized drugs valued at N13.92bn, and two containing used clothes valued at N144m.

He added the service had also arrested three suspects connected with the arms importation, and they are currently in custody after securing a detention warrant from a court.

Adeniyi stated, “Today, we gather to inform you about the recent significant developments in our operations to secure our nation’s borders and ensure public safety.

“You may recall that at a press briefing of this nature held recently at the Tin Can Island Port Lagos, I had disclosed attempts by criminal elements seeking to exploit our trade facilitation friendly posture to compromise our processes and procedures.

“With our robust Risk Management System, we have always remained a step ahead of their moves. When these attempts revolve around revenue generation, our automated audit systems at different levels enable us to trace, track and recover the revenue. However, when efforts are geared towards creating actions that will produce irreversible consequences on national security, our alert level is elevated to match the threats posed to us.”

He said the arms were intercepted through credible intelligence monitoring the shipments from their point of departure in collaboration with the local, national and international intelligence communities.

“And so it was the case with this 1X40 foot container MAEU165396, which originated from Turkey, and based on several risk factors, became a subject of interest. We had followed its sail across the continents, as we benefitted immensely from credible information produced through our collaboration with the intelligence communities, both at the local, national and international levels.

“Working within our local structures, we followed diligently as the importer attempted to circumvent our procedure through the outlet of a private bonded terminal.

“Consequently, on Friday, 21 June 2024, the suspicious container was subjected to a thorough physical examination. The examination result revealed the following alarming contents: 844 units of rifles, and 112,500 pieces of live ammunition.

“The breakdown is as follows; 764 units of Tomahawk Jojef Magnum Black Pump Action Rifles, 10 units of VC Verney Carron Gunmakers Jojef Magnum silver pump-action rifles, 50 units of VC Verney Caron Gunmaker double-barrel rifles, 20 units of VC Verney Caron Gunmaker single-barrel rifles, exclusive series, Sterling High-Quality live ammunition 34g – 25 Plastic Shotgun Shells (70MM).

“The rifles and ammunition were concealed using various items such as doors, furniture, plumbing fittings, and leather bags. The duty-paid value of the container is N4.17bn.

“In connection with this, we have three suspects in our custody after securing a detention warrant from a competent court of justice. Furthermore, a thorough investigation is ongoing to ensure all those involved face the full wrath of the law,” he added.

Reacting to this issue, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps condemned the proliferation and illegal possession of firearms across the nation.

Emphasising a firm stance against such activities, the NSCDC spokesperson, Babawale Afolabi, in an interview announced that the culprits apprehended would face prosecution by the law.

Afolabi said, “The NSCDC condemns all acts of proliferation and illegal possession of firearms. We also encourage that the borders be strengthened because of porosity. The Corps is always ready to synergise with sister security agencies to strengthen the security architecture of the nation.”

In another development, the controller general said its operative acting on intelligence intercepted eight containers ladened with illicit drugs in transit to a bonded warehouse.

He explained the smugglers trying to evade their officers wrongly declared its contents to evade duty payment and prohibition order.

He said, “Its officers, through synergy, collaboration, and intelligence sharing, on Saturday, 29 June 2024, intercepted yet another 8×40-foot container in transit to a bonded warehouse from Onne Port. The container numbers are TCKU6879285, CMAU5985012, CMAU7515384, CMAU4297020, SEKU5488437, BMOU4363156, MRKU4616024, and MRSU3068928.

“Upon examination, they were found to contain the following: Six containers laden with 1,050,000 bottles of CSC Cough Syrup with Codeine (100ml), 3,500,000 tablets of Trodol Benzhexol Tablets (5mg) with a total duty-paid value of N9.6bn. Two containers laden with 720 bales of used clothes with a duty-paid value of N144m.

“The total duty-paid value of the nine displayed containers is ₦13.92bn. In line with the provisions of the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023, the following decisions have been taken concerning these containers. The 40-footer container of evil, bearing 844 units of assorted rifles and 112,500 pieces of live ammunition is hereby seized, alongside the other contents previously highlighted.

“The items would be handed over to the Coordinator of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, under the office of the National Security Adviser for diligent investigation, and ultimately rigorous prosecution.

“The suspects arrested would be handed over to the centre for further processing. We will work diligently with other agencies of government to apprehend all other cohorts and death merchants involved in this monkey business. The eight containers whose contents were wrongly declared to evade duty payment and prohibition order are hereby declared seized.

“The licences and permits issued for the operation of all the warehouses and terminals as well as those of their Customs agents involved in these cases are hereby suspended pending the determination of their involvement.”

He also promised to ensure full sanction for officers found complicit in the perpetration of these nefarious acts.

“Customs Officers who are found complicit in the perpetration of these nefarious acts would be heavily sanctioned in a manner that would be approved by the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service.

“Officers who kept faith with the oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and refused to be bribed into releasing these containers will be adequately rewarded in a manner provided by the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023.”

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