Terminal Operator in Trouble over Arms Importation from Turkey

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By Eromosele Abiodun

Tin-Can Island Container Terminal (TICT), a private terminal operator, may have landed into trouble over its role in the 1100 pump-action rifles intercepted at the Tin-Can Island Port Complex by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

TICT operates berth 3, 4, 4A & 5 at Tin-Can Port with Terminal Operational area with a total length of 764.64meters.

Officers of Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) had intercepted a 20 foot container with number GESU2555208, containing 1100 pieces of Pump-action rifles.

The container contains 600 pieces of Jojef Magnum Black Pump Action Rifles; 300 pieces of Jojef Silver Black Pump action rifles; 200 pieces of Jojef magnum plastic single barrels hunting fun pump action rifles.

The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) had said Customs will hold the terminal operator responsible to explain how the lethal weapon found its way into the terminal examination bay when it was not listed for examination for the day.

The Customs CG also queried how the container found its way into the examination bay with seal cutoff and padlocked even though it was not positioned or listed for examination.

Ali said: “The container was conveyed by a vessel; MV Bella Shuttle. At the point of examination, it was observed that the container was not listed for examination but found its way into the examination bay with the seal of the container cut and padlocked.

“The container became suspicious and had to be immediately transferred to the enforcement unit.”

Speaking further, the customs boss said that, “Already, one officer of the service alleged to have authorised the cutting of the seal and the terminal clerk has been arrested and is undergoing investigation. “Nigeria Customs Service under my watch will do that is possible to fish out all those remotely connected to this devilish importation; we shall bring them to justice”, Ali said

He added: “We would now begin to hold even the terminal operators responsible because, how come the container which was not listed and positioned for examination found its way into the groups of those that were supposed to be inspected, the terminal operators must explain because as soon as the containers were brought down from the ship they took charge of them, so somebody would have to explain how the container founds its way out.”

He promised to collaborate with the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barrister Hassan Bello WCO (World Customs Organisation) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the government of Turkey to nip the scourge of arms importation to Nigeria in the bud.

 He said that investigation was still ongoing to determine the importer of the guns. “This time we are going beyond fishing out the importer or our officers that have connived; we would also go after the shipper. It is a global known process that there is no way you can take onboard your ship a container that you don’t know the content.

“From now on, thanks to the law and we would effect it as it is, all ships that  bring in such cargoes would be detained if discovered on our port, if not, we would block them from our system completely, this means they cannot do business with us until they become compliant. “Through the WCO (World Customs Organisation) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have to begin to discuss with the Turkish government, because this is becoming too much for us to bear, we discovered after complete profiling that the importation all came from Turkey.”

Effort to speak with TICT proved abortive as text messages sent to the Chief Executive Officer, TICT, Mr. Etienne Rocher were not replied at press time.