One of the arrested importers of 661 pump action guns into Nigeria has been in the business since 2012, the Department of State Security (DSS) revealed at a Federal High Court, in Lagos, today.
Mr Wale Odu, Head of Investigations at DSS, made the revelation while giving evidence in the trial of five accused persons charged before Justice Ayotunde Faji, for unlawful importation of 661 pump action guns into the country, by Nigeria Customs Services (NCS).
The NCS had on June 14, 2017 arraigned two Customs Officers, Mahmud Hassan and Salisu Abdulahi Danjuma, alongside Oscar Okafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo and Matthew Okoye, at Justice Ayotunde Faji’s court, on charges bordering on illegal importation of fire arms, conspiracy, forgery, altering of documents, offering of graft to government officials and importation of prohibited goods.
At the resumed trial today, Odu, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, told the Court, his interaction with each of the accused persons during investigation.
He said: “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.”
He also told the Court about a 140/40 container with the rifles and steel doors, and a truck with number BDG 265 SD, used in carrying the container, along with the pump action rifles.
He said, “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 meetings at Southern Sun Hotel, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, where he agreed to collect N4 million for the clearance of the container, and that in one of the meetings, 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 fourth accused, Danjuma Abdulahi, to facilitate the clearance 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 percent inspection.
The Court also heard that the second accused person called Oscar after the interception of the container and told him that some millions would be required to prevent it from being taking to Customs office, so that the content (the pump action rifles) would not be discovered.
He added that upon refusal of Nigeria Customs officers to collect the money, the container was taken to Customs where 100 percent 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 Customs officers with N400, 000, which he claimed to have collected from Okafor Oscar, which the Customs Officers refused to accept.
On his interaction with Oscar, 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 Lading to Hassan Mahmud, for clearance of the container in Nigeria.
The Court also heard that the accused confessed to him that he had a series of meetings 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 mentioned the name of Donatus Ezenbuwa Achinulo as a partner in the business of importation of arms, and Matthew Okoye (now at large), as a partner in arms smuggling business from Turkey to Nigeria.
On his interaction with the fourth accused, Danjuma Abdulahi, the witness stated that the accused admitted collecting N1 million from Hassan Mahmud, to facilitate the clearance with the examination of the container.
The witness added that the accused confessed that he gave two customs officers who managed the gate of Apapa Seaport, Emmanuel Silas and Abiodun Taiwo, N100, 000, after telling them that the container has no valid papers.
He added that the accused also 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 Oscar.
The witness also told the Court that the accused confessed to him that Mahmud, was the person that cleared most of illegal arms imported into the country.
He also told the Court that after his interaction with all accused persons, both Mahmud and Oscar volunteered to write statements, while Danjuma Abdulahi and Donatus Achinulo, on request asked Saheed Adetunji and Fola Oni, to take down their statements.
The trial of the accused persons was brought to an end, following an objection raised by Mahmud’s lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, who raised objection to the tendering of client’s statement by the prosecution.
Galadima had objected to the 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 Wednesday, January 24, for trial-within-trial, and continuation of trial of accused persons.
AGF in charge number FHC/L/190c/17, alleged that all the accused persons conspired with one another to illegally import into Nigeria 661 Pump Action Rifles.
They also allegedly 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 of Customs’ Form M, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) used in smuggling the rifles into the country.
The Court heard that Hassan allegedly corruptly offered the sum of N400, 000 to one Aliu Musa, the Examination Officer of the Federal Operation Unit of the Customs Service with an intent to prevent hundred percent search on a container marked PONU 825914/3, which was used in bringing into the country the said arms.
He also allegedly corruptly gave the sum of N1 million to Government officials at Apapa Port, through his colleague, Danjuma Abdulahi, in order to prevent the search of the said container used in bringing in the 661 illegally imported Pump Action rifles.