George Okoh in Makurdi
The Nigerian military yesterday said it has uncovered an illegal local arm-manufacturing factory in Logo Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State and arrested two manufacturers.
The Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke OPWS, Major General Adeyemi Yekini disclosed this at a press conference in Makurdi, the state capital.
Yekini, who also paraded the two suspects before journalists at the OPWS headquarters located at the Tactical Air Command Makurdi , explained that his men, about three weeks ago, received reports of some weapon manufacturers operating between Ukum and logo LGAs of the state.
He stated that on receipt of the information, they mounted several weeks of surveillance, and were able to track the culprits and where to locate them.
Yekini who gave the names of those involved to include, Atii Cephas and Mnzuga Teryila, said they were arrested following intelligence report given to his troops in Anyiin, Logo and Ukum LGAs.
Also, Sector Commander of OPWS in charge of Logo and Ukum LGAs, Capt. Samuel Okenarhe, confirmed that on receipt of information on a weapon-manufacturing syndicate, they set out to trail them.
“On March 24, 2019, we got information that two persons had AK47 in Anyiin town. But before we got there, I heard that some of the locals were already lynching one of them. On sighting us, they ran away and we arrested the person with AK47 and when we interrogated him, he told us that he manufactured the weapons in Tine Unune in Ukum LGA. On the same evening, we got another report that the suspect who ran away was seen roaming about his house and we laid ambush and got him that night in Zaki Biam Ukum LGA. He led us to the second manufacturing plant. We raided the place and recovered several weapons that are in different stages of manufacturing,” Okenarhe explained.
During an interview with journalists, one of the suspects, Cephas Atii, revealed that, he started the act of manufacturing weapons about two years ago after his return from studies abroad and was confronted with financial challenges.
“I started this arms business when I returned from Europe two years ago. All I had vanished due to witchcraft and I had to start all over again. I had this idea of arms manufacturing and I thought to go into it to get small money.
“On Monday, I was traveling from Wukari to Anyii. When I got to Anyii, since it was long I hadn’t been there, on getting there, I had this old friend who called me to ask if he can get a simple riffle for self defence.
“So, I obliged him and promised to get it for him. I don’t own a workshop but I know a manufacturer. On arriving at my farm at about 8 a.m., some of my brothers came and we started exchanging words and there and then, they called the army, saying there is somebody with AK 47 and that was how l was arrested.
“I studied engineering in telecommunication but had no job. I needed to do something to make money. I learnt arms manufacturing in Mauritania in less than five years. I have so far supplied over 16 arms, including pistols which goes for N50,000 and AK47, which is sold for between N320,000.00 and N350,000,” Atii stated.
However, Yekini said that investigation was still ongoing as they are still on the trail of other members of the group who are at large.
Speaking on the activities of herdsmen, militias and other criminal elements in the Sankara axis, Yekini further disclosed that troops of OPWS had within two weeks, neutralised four armed herdsmen, cleared several militias camps and launched can intensive operation on Gana camp and neutralised some of his gang members.