By Isaac Anumihe

Amidst wide-spread rumour of another military coup in the country, the Nigeria Customs Seavice on Monday intercepted a 40 feet container ladden with 440 pieces of pump action rifles at the Tin Can Island Port in Apapa.

The guns which were concealed in the container packed full with Plaster of Paris (POP) powder were allegedly imported from Turkey although were manufactured in Italy and America.

The seizure comes barely five months after the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service had also intercepted about 661 pieces of pump action rifles along the Mile 2-Apapa Expressway in January 2017. The development comes as some powerful politicians have hinted that radical elements within the polity are stockpiling arms and ammunitions ahead of the 2019 general elections.

While displaying the guns at a briefing at the port, the Zonal Co-ordinator of Zone ‘A’ of Customs, Assistant Comptroller General of Customs,  Monday Abueh, said the guns, which originated from Turkey, were concealed inside a 40-footer container with numbers PONU210024 (1) 22G1 carrying POP powder used for design of houses.

Abueh however said the harmful cargo was intercepted following intelligence reports obtained by the Tin Can Island Customs Command, stressing that the container was immediately taken away by Customs even before declaration of its contents was made.

Already, one suspect who could not be named  has  been apprehended in connection with the seizure whereas the container, which was intercepted on Monday night has been transferred to the enforcement unit where other security agencies were invited to inspect it.

“These are pump action riffles of various designs. Based on intelligence report of the Tin Can Island Customs under Controller Bashir Yussuf, who is one of our best officers,  the container was identified and intercepted. There is no question of any officer releasing here. It was intercepted even before declaration. We discovered that they used POP powder to conceal the guns in order to beat the Customs checks.

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“We have one defendant but for the purpose of indemnity, we don’t intend to detain him for long for security reasons. As for the consignee, we are still keeping it under wraps because investigations are  still ongoing. We have about 440 pieces coming from Turkey,” Abueh said.

He noted that investigations are ongoing and that the Customs lawyers would get to the root of the matter. “Prosecution of matters like this in Nigeria takes a long time to push out the culprits but our lawyers have all it takes to prosecute those involved,” the Assistant Controller said.

However, the  Tin Can Island Customs Controller, Bashir Yussuf, also explained that apart from the 440 pieces of pump action Magnum brand, other accessories of the guns where equally found in the container.

In addition to the accessories, Completely Knocked Down (CKD) of the pump action riffles were found inside the consignment. Bashir stated that some of the guns were manufactured in US while others came from Italy but mainly imported from Turkey.

“We have other accessories in this container. Several parts were dismantled but definitely to be reassembled (CKD). Investigations would go deeper so as to know where the factory for arms assembly is located in Nigeria.

“Generally, anytime we have interceptions like this, it requires a lot of intelligence and profiling of importers. The 21st Century calls for that. You don’t have to wait for things to start happening before you start working.

“POP is a very safe item to conceal weapons because it is not injurious to anyone. It is an attempt to distract the Customs. But whatever anyone might use, it would attract our attention,” he insisted.