Beyond the confiscation of illegally imported arms and ammunition, it’s about time government exposed the faces behind these nefarious activities, writes Olawale Olaleye
Pause for a moment and see if you too are able to relate with this. There is an unpleasant development that typifies the political space each election cycle. If you are an avid observer of the Nigerian political terrain, then, you must have known that at this period of a pending general election, there are frequent reports about seized arms and ammunition.
Directly or indirectly, these arms are often linked to the probability of a crisis outbreak, suggesting that political players – passive or active – could be the ones behind the importation of such arms. And typically also, each election in the country is often trapped in its own character of pre-election dynamics, which over time combine with others to accentuate the tenor of the particular exercise.
It is near consensus that the 2019 elections will be fraught with a lot of uncertainties, exacerbated by the frequency of the various agitations going on in different parts of the country. The current is high and the probable damage to national asset and psyche is incalculable.
The fact that such agitations would be channeled in different forms raises genuine concern about possible proliferation of arms in the period transiting to the next election. This is particularly demanding of urgent attention, when juxtaposed with the current challenge posed by the Boko Haram terrorists’ sect in the country.
It is therefore for this reason and more that the reported seizure of 1,100 pump action rifles by the Nigeria Customs Service, the Tin-Can Island Command, allegedly imported from Turkey last week should worry everyone, more so that it was the third attempt in this year alone and all three said to have come from Turkey.
In January, the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) enforcement team intercepted a container load of arms along the Apapa-Oshodi expressway. Four months after, the same Command intercepted another container load of arms, precisely on May 23. On each of the occasions, the arms were usually the very sophisticated types, sometimes alien to some of the nation’s security agents.
The Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who addressed the media on the development, frowned on the importation of arms into the country through Turkey. He disclosed that all three containers loaded with arms that had been intercepted by the service this year were imported into the country through Turkey.
Specifically addressing how the latest container was intercepted, Ali said the 20ft container was originally declared as containing wash hand basins and water closets.
“On the 6th of September, 2017, operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence unit, on a routine monitoring of activities across the terminals, discovered a 1x20ft container with No. GESU2555208, which was not previously listed for examination, positioned with other containers for the day’s examination.
“They also observed that the seal of this unlisted container had already been broken and padlocked. The container became suspect and had to be immediately transferred to the enforcement unit,” adding that a customs officer and a terminal clerk had been arrested in connection with the broken seal.
According to him, “Upon thorough examination, the container contained 600 pieces of Jojef Magnum Black pump action riffles, 300 pieces of Jojef Magnum Silver pump action rifles, and 209 pieces of Jojef Magnum Plastic single barrels hunting pump action rifles.
“Importation of 1,100 rifles at a time when the nation is undergoing security challenges is a clear indication that there are indeed some elements, who do not believe in the unity, peace and well-being of Nigeria,” he added.
However, while the statement by Ali is correct, it also suffices to add that those stoking the growing insecurity in the country may not be unmindful of the pending election and might have been considering the period of the election as a good time to further perpetrate their unpatriotic act of destabilisation. What is clear and unmistaken here is that those behind this dastardly act are clearly enemies of the country and should be exposed and treated as such.
There is no way a container of such magnitude would come into Nigerian ports without proper labeling and identification. It therefore behooves the authority to embrace the challenge of finding out those behind this and exposing them, otherwise, there would not be any difference between those who are benefitting from the nation’s insecurity and those shielding them.
The third container in a row in this year alone and all from the same place – Turkey and yet, not one person has been exposed in connection with this is suspect already. Nigerians, as much as the authority have a right to know those who are instigating violence and making the country deliberately ungovernable. That syndicate must be smashed and an example set from this.