Foreigners And Arms Smuggling


By John Tosin Ajiboye

The rate at which foreigners are smuggling arms into the country is alarming and it calls for serious concern for all and sundry.

With the kind of security challenges Nigeria as a nation is facing, security agencies ought to be more vigilant in detecting illegal arms importation. It is unfortunate that some bad politicians, greedy customs officers and some disgruntled elements among other law enforcement officers are encouraging and supporting these criminals from different parts of the of the world to import all sorts of arms into Nigeria.

It will be recalled that on July 17, 2010 one Iranian, Azin Aghajani accompanied  by one unpatriotic Nigerian named  Ali  Jega  illegally imported a 13-by-20 feet container load of firearms and explosives into Nigeria from Iran by falsely declaring on the Bill of Lading that the consignment contained construction materials.

In the same vain, 15 Russians were also arrested in Lagos by Naval officers on 18 October, 2012 and arraigned on 19 February, 2013 for unlawful importation of arms into Nigeria. The accused Russians who have found Nigeria as a country where anything goes are: Zhelyyazkov Andrey, Savchenko Sergel, Chikanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Lopatin Alexey and Baranovskly Nikolay. Others are Mishin Pavel, Liia Shubov, Dimitry Bannyry, Alexander Tsarikov, Kononov Sergel, Korotchouko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail and Stepan Oleksiuk.

These accused persons were alleged to have entered Nigerian territorial waters without due clearance from the Nigerian Customs Service and refusal to declare the content of their vessel, an offence that contravenes the Provisions of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, Laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 as well as the Provision of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004.

Using the porous borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the desolate scrubland around Lake Chad and some of our waterways, these criminals from foreign countries smuggle in bigger weapons for the members of Boko Haram sect and other militia groups that are terrorizing our dear country.

According to the Reuters, the recent Bama attack showed Boko Haram sect’s substantial fire power, including machine guns, large numbers of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. It clearly shows that the weapons flow from the Libyan war that helped rebels seize parts of Mali last year. This is also an indication that something urgent must be done to stop these illegal importation of arms into Nigeria.

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While I commend Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court in Lagos for sentencing Azim Aghajani and his Nigerian accomplice,  Jega to 17 years imprisonment each for illegal importation of firearms into country on Monday 13 May, 2013,  (I would have wanted a harsher sentence for the convicts) I will also appeal to Federal Ministries of Justice and Interior not to allow Aghajani to serve his jail term in his home country (Iran) as requested by his counsel. He should be allowed to serve it here in Nigerian prison where he committed the offence so that it will serve as a lesson for other foreigners who think they can do whatever they like in Nigeria and go scot free.

I will also urge Justice James Tsoho who is in charge of the case of the alleged arms importers who are Russia nationals not to let them go scot free if they are found guilty.

On the other hand, Nigerian lawyers should be more patriotic in the course of discharging their duties. They must not because of the money they will charge and be encouraging or supporting the criminals that are importing arms into the country because they or any of their family members can be victims of the arms that are being smuggled into our country.

The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, whose ministry is overseeing Nigerian Customs must be up and doing. Corruption in Nigeria Customs Service must be checkmated and any officer found aiding and abetting smuggling of arms into the country must be sacked and prosecuted. The Chiefs of Air and Naval Staff must also caution their officers from supporting the foreigners from smuggling arms into the country via our air and waterways.

Lastly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru must also address members of the diplomatic community to warn their citizens against causing trouble in Nigeria either directly or indirectly, and should any foreigner be arrested for any offence in Nigeria, he/she must be allowed to face the full wrath of the law as it is done in other countries.  For instance, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and other countries have executed many Nigerians while thousands are languishing in jail for trafficking cocaine and other hard drugs into their countries. Therefore, any citizen of these countries who smuggles hard drugs or arms into Nigeria should be punished harshly.

Nigeria has enough challenges  and no foreigner should be allowed to add to our problems.

Enough is enough.

•Ajiboye writes from Osogbo, Osun state. •E-mail: [email protected] •Tel:+2348138966292

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