Assistant Comptroller and Acting Spokesman of the Nigerian Customs, Joseph Attah, has revealed that four Customs Officers as well as the importer, clearing agent and a driver, recently involved in the illegal importation of arms, have been arrested.
On Monday, 661 pump action rifles, had been confiscated by the Force in Lagos.
Giving details of what happened, the Assistant Comptroller said: “It is unfortunate that some Custom Officers and some Nigerians will want to connive and bring this kind of deadly cargo into the country.
“Immediately the weapons were discovered, they held the clearing agent and they went to arrest the importer. We also have the motor boy that was taking the consignment to the destination.
“We understand that they were heading to somewhere around Festac.
“Four Customs Officers have already been cooling their heels in our cell, they have made useful statements and there would be consequences.
Explaining further, he said: “As you know, we have our Customs Intelligence Unit all over our terminals, seaports, airports borders and all that – they keep tabs of what is happening.
“Officers of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), received a tip off as they were actually on information patrol.
“They never knew that it was this deadly, what was suspected was that maybe it was a case of false declaration, under payment and all that.
According to him, the tip off raised suspicion which led them to intercept the container at the Mile 2 area of Lagos, after which it was brought to the FOU, Ikeja.
“Their suspicion became heightened when the clearing agent was invited for examination and he kept dillydallying – Even when he showed up, he deliberately showed up towards evening time when it would become nearly impossible to examine a 1 : 40 feet container.
“The OC in charge, insisted that this container will be examined in the presence of the clearing agent – eventually, that was done and behold, they discovered this,” Attah told Channels Television.
According to him, the container was actually intercepted on January 22, while it was examined on the 27th.
Police The Police
As to whether the arrested officers were really in the know of the content of the container, the Customs boss said “investigation will reveal all that”.
Reacting to comments that considering the rigorous nature of the clearing process at the ports, such incidents should not be heard of, Mr Attah defended that:
“Custom officers are human beings, importers are human beings, clearing agents are human beings and when you are dealing with human beings, you are bound to have one or two out of a hundred or a thousand, who are willing to compromise or they are lazy, they don’t do due diligence or a combination of all.
“The fact remains that the Nigerian Customs Service are aware of the fact that there may be some of us who would be willing to compromise or would not be committed or dedicated to their functions enough; that is why we have the intelligence unit, Federal Operations Unit and others.
According to him, the idea is to counter-balance and police the police.
“Just as we have one or two bad custom officers, we have a whole lot more who are ready to insist that the wrong must be corrected and that is why we have these seizures,” he stated.
Need For Technology
Highlighting some of the areas in which more development is needed so as to curb the illegal importation of arms, the Customs boss stated the need for technology.
He mentioned the need for scanners at the borders, among other things.