The Department of State Security (DSS), today informed a Federal High Court, Lagos, that one of the importers of 661 Pump Action Rifles, illegally imported into the country, last year January, have been smuggling guns into the country, for the past 12 years.
Mr. Wale Odu, Head of Investigation of DSS, stated this while giving evidence in the trial of five accused persons charged before Justice Ayotunde Faji, for unlawful importation of 661 Pump Action Rifles into the country, by the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS).
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Customs Service had on June 14, 2017, arraigned two Customs Officers, Muhmud Hassan and Salisu Abdulahi Danjuma, alongside Oscar Orkafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo and Matthew Okoye, before Justice Ayotunde Faji’s court, on charges bordering on illegal importation of fire arms, conspiracy, forgery and altering of documents, offering of graft to government officials and importation of prohibited goods.
The offences according to the Prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, are contrary to to and punishable under sections 3(6),1(14)(a)(I) 1(2) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and section 98(1) (b) of the Criminal Code Act.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons on today, Odu, while being led in -evidence by the Prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajaikaye, narrated before the court, his interaction with each of the accused persons during investigation.
Narrating his interactions with each of accused persons, the Head of DSS investigation says: “on February, 2017, the DSS took over the case of illegal importation of firearms from the Nigeria Customs Services, while taking over the case, the two defendants, Hassan Mahmud and Okafor Oscar, also known as Okafor Osita, were handed over to DSS for investigation of illegal importation of 661 pump action rifles.
“Also a 140X40 container containing the rifles and steel doors. Also, a truck with number BDG 265 SD, used in carrying the container, along with the pump action rifles. I and my team, which includes: Saheed Adetunji, Fola Oni, Bolaji Adeyemo, and others.
“I interacted with the second defendant, Hassan Mahmud, who told me that he is a sole director of Hassan Trade Nigeria Limited, which is the consignee and importer of the illegally imported 661 pump action rifles.
“In respect of the container, he and Oscar had several meeting at Southern Sun Hotel, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, where he agreed to collect N4 million for clearing the container. And that in one of the meeting, Oscar told him that the container is carrying pump action rifles, which was the reason for charging him N4 million.”
The witness also told the court that, the second accused confessed to him that he paid N1 million to the fourth accused, Danjuma Abdulahi, to facilitate the clearing of the container from Apapa Port, without due process.
He further told the court that Hassan Mahmud, confessed to him that being an Assistant Comptroller of Customs (ACC), he has illegal way of shielding the container from 100 per cent inspection.
Odu also told the court that the second accused, told him that after the interception of the container, he called Oscar and told him that some millions will be require to prevent it from being taking to Customs office, so that the content (the pump action rifles) will not be discovered, adding that upon refusal of the men of Nigeria Customs to collect the money, the container was taken to Customs, where 100 per cent investigation was conducted in his presence and the 661 pump action rifles were discovered.
The witness also stated that the second accused confessed to him of bribing men of Customs with N400, 000, which he claimed to have collected from the third accused, Okafor Oscar, which the Customs Officers refused to accept.
On his interaction with the third accused, Okafor Oscar, also known as Okafor Osita, the DSS Head of Investigation said the accused confessed to him that he participated in loading the container in Turkey, with one Okoye Matthew (now at large). And that he handed over a falsified Bill of Ladding to Hassan Mahmud, for clearing of the container in Nigeria.
The witness also told the court that the accused confessed to him that he had series of meeting with the second accused at Southern Sun Hotel, Ikoyi, on how to handle the container, adding that he has been doing business of importation with the second accused for years.
He further mentioned the name of Donatus Ezenbuwa Achinulo and as a partner in the business of importation of arms, and Matthew Okoye (now at large), as a partner in arm smuggling business from Turkey to Nigeria.
On his interaction with the fourth accused, Danjuma Abdulahi, the witness stated that the accused confessed collecting N1 million from the second accused, Hassan Mahmud, to facilitate the clearance with the examination of the container.
The witness also said the accused confessed given two men of Nigeria Customs Services, who manned the gate of Apapa Seaport, Emmanuel Silas, Abiodun Taiwo, the sum of N100, 000, after telling them that the container has no valid papers,adding that the accused confessed to him that no examination was conducted on the container.
The Head of DSS investigation team, also told the court that the sixth accused, Donatus Achinulo, revealed to him that he has been in the business of illegal arms importation since 2012, and confessed that he has been doing the business with the third accused, Okafor Oscar.
The witness also told the court that the accused confessed to him that the second accused, Hassan Mahmud, was the person that cleared most of the illegal arms imported into the country.
The witness told the court that after his interaction with all accused persons, both Hassan Mahmud and Okafor Oscar volunteered to write statements, while Danjuma Abdulahi and Donatus Achinulo, on request asked Saheed Adetunji and Fola Oni, to take down their statements.
However, the trial of the accused persons was halted following an objection raised by Hassan Mahmud’s lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, who raised objection to the tendering of his client’s statement by the prosecution.
Galadima objected to tendering of the statement on the ground that the statement was obtained under duress.
Lawyers to the other accused, which includes, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Dr. Paul Ananaba (SAN) and abdulahi, also aligned themselves with Galadima’s submission. And urged the court to conduct trial-within-trial to ascertain the veracity of the statement.
Consequently, the Presiding Judge, Justice Ayotunde Faji, adjourned the matter till Wednsday, January 24, for trial-within-trial, and continuation of trial of accused persons.
AGF in charge number FHC/L/190c/17, alleged that the all the accused persons conspired with one another to illegally import into Nigeria 661 Pump Action Rifles.
They were also alleged to have forged the documents which includes: two Bill of Ladings, one reads ‘Shanghai China’, as Port of Loading, instead of ‘Istanbul’ and another one which reads: ‘Steel Doors’, as the contents of the container instead oIm Customs’ Form M, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) used in smuggling the said 661 rifles Into the country.
In particular, one of the Customs Officials, Mahmud Hassan, was alleged to have corruptly offered the sum of N400, 000.00, to one Aliu Musa, the Examination Officer of the Federal Operation Unit of the Customs Service with an intent to prevent 100 per cent search on a container marked PONU 825914/3, which was used in bringing into the country the said arms.
He was also alleged to have corruptly given the sum of N1 million to Government officials at Apapa Port, through his colleague, Danjuma Abdulahi, in order to prevent the searching of the said container used in bringing in the 661 illegally imported Pump Action rifles.