Arms smuggling, NCS to clamp down on erring vessels, shipping firms
.Says economic saboteurs must face severe sanctions
.Stakeholder calls for vigilance on ember month
By Udeme Clement & Silas Onuoha
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has vowed to take drastic actions against vessels as well as shipping firms manipulating their documents at the waterfront, thereby paving the way for arms and other offensive items to be smuggled into Nigeria, to the detriment of the Nation’s economy.
The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) Hameed Ali made this disclosure, yesterday, at a meeting with shipping firms, terminal operators, industry regulators and major stakeholders in the maritime industry.
CGC Ali warned shipping companies conveying containers to Nigeria to desist from manipulating their manifests while still at the sea, or be ready to face the wrath of the law, as such act constitutes serious illegality and a threat to the nation’s economy, especially at a time the country is facing security challenges in some areas.
According to him, their investigatons revealed that some vessels midstream at the waterfront, often change the original details written on their manifests from the country (port) of origin where the cargoes are imported from, thereby giving misleading details about the real contents in the containers. This, he said, allows offensive items to be shipped into Nigeria illegally.
The Customs Boss expressed strong displeasure about the latest discovery, stressing that government will not hesitate to sanction erring shipping companies found culpable in this illegal act.
His assertion: “For instance, investigations on the recent seizure of pump action rifles recorded by Tincan Customs Command, revealed that those documents from Turkey stated clearly the original contents of the containers, but were later changed when the ship got to another destination in Morocco.”
“The shipping firms are responsible for conveying those illicit items to Nigeria. I am saying this with all sense of responsibility because of what we discovered in the case of arms in the last two months. When we got to Turkey, we discovered that the items were documented as pump action rifles. The exit certificate from Turkey indicated the actual content. To them, they did not know that pump action rifles are on the restricted list in Nigeria. As such, they did not need to contact the authority in Nigeria before allowing their export it. But the importers of those weapons knew that the items are prohibited in Nigeria. So, when they got to Morocco, they deliberately changed the original manifest and concealed the weapons with sanitary wares” .
In a chat with Financial Business & Maritime News at the sideline of the meeting, some stakeholders commended Tincan Customs Command for being alert and intercepting the deadly cargo, calling on officers to be vigilant, as the ember month approaches.