A Federal High Court, Lagos heard on Thursday how 1,570 rifles were illegally imported into the country by some businessmen through the Tincan Island Port, Lagos.
A Deputy Superintendent of Customs, Nwaiwu Chibuzor Ginikanwa, made the disclosure before Justice Saliu Saidu.
Ginikanwa, who is with the Intelligence unit, Tincan Island Command, was testifying as a prosecution witness in the trial of Ayogu Great James, Ifeuwa Moses Christ and a company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited.
The defendants are facing trial for alleged importation of 1570 pump action rifles into the country.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, a Deputy Director with the Federal Ministry of Justice, Ginikanwa said she was on normal routine surveillance on September 6, 2017, at the Tincan Island Container Port, Lagos with the list of containers to be positioned for examination on that day.
She said one of the containers, measuring 1by 20 feet, was among those to be examined.
The witness said that on her way to inspect the containers, an agent by name, Ndubuisi approached her and gave her a photocopy of a Bill of Laden.
She said after inspecting the first container belonging to another person, she proceeded to carry out inspection on the container which Ndubuisi has given her the Bill of Laden.
Ginikanwa said while approaching the container, she saw two agents standing by the container and already opened.
“I noticed some cartons rapped in sacks with one of the cartons turned open.
“On closer look, I saw guns.
“Immediately the two agents, Ikechukwu Okafor and Ndubuisi realised that I had seen the guns in the sacks, they quickly locked the container and ran away”.
Ginikanwa said she quickly alerted her boss, Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Bomoi Sulaimon, who in turn, quickly drafted other operatives to join her at the terminal to secure the container.
She said her boss also contacted Deputy Comptroller Enforcement, Nnandi Vera.
The witness said she and the reinforcement from her unit were at the terminal until the arrival of the Enforcement Unit who took the container away for 100 percent physical examination.
“When I got back to the office on that day, I received a call from a telephone number 08026797600 and the person who called was begging me in Ibo language to help secure the release of the container.”
The witness told the court that further investigation into the call line revealed the caller to be one Emeka Festus.
At this stage, the prosecutor, Ajakaiye tendered the certified true copy of the Bill of Laden given to Ginikanwa by Ndubuisi and it was admitted in evidence.
The defence did not opposed to its admissibility.
Justice Saidu has adjourned further hearing in the matter till January 16 and 24, 2019.
The court on Wednesday refused the bail applications filed by the alleged gun runners, Ayogu Great James and Ifeuwa Moses Christ.
The defendants alongside a company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited, located at Number 1, Warehouse Road, Apapa, Lagos were first arraigned before the court on October 11 by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
In a charge marked FHC/L/339c/18, the defendants were alleged to have uttered an forged Bill of Laden and Customs Form M, which they used in smuggling the pump action rifles into the country. During their arraignment, they were slammed with the eight counts charge bordering on conspiracy, illegal importation of firearms and forgery and uttering of Customs’ import documents.
The prosecutor alleged that in a bid to illegally and unlawfully bring in the weapons, the defendants uttered and forged Bill of lading, issued in July 28, 2017, to read Guandong, China, instead of Istanbul, Turkey, which was written on the conveying container.
They were also alleged to have uttered Form M (application for Import) and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), issued in August 28, 2017, with number MF 20170080364 and CN 20170768490/001, respectively, to read Guandong, China instead of Istanbul, Turkey, as country of origin. The defendants were also alleged to have uttered a forged bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued in July 28, 2017, to read 230 packages of wash hand basin and W/C, as the content in the container used in shipping in the illegal firearms.
The offences according to the prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye are contrary to and punishable under Section 3(6), 1(14)(a), 1(14)(a)(i), 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
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