Importation of 661 firearms, forgery :
3 suspects bag 16 years prison sentence
* As Court orders forfeiture of properties to FG
After four years of legal battle, the High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday sentenced three suspects, Mahmud Hassan, Oskar Okafor and Donatus Achinulo to 16 years imprisonment for alleged conspiracy, forgery, bribery and unlawful importation of 661 Pump Action rifles (firearms) into the country.
The Judge also ordered immediate forfeiture of the properties belonging to the three convicts to the Federal Government, as stipulated by the law for which they were arraigned.
In the same vein, Justice Ayokunle Faji while delivering the judgement, ordered that the company identified as Hassan Trading Limited allegedly used for illegal importation of the firearms be forfeited to government as well.
On conspiracy, the Judge found the first, second and third defendants guilty. He sentenced them to jail, while Abdulahi Danjuma was acquitted and discharged of all charges brought against him.
Those arraigned before the Court include Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo and Salihu Danjuma.
But the fifth defendant, Matthew Okoye had absconded. Also, as the case lasted in Court for about four years, the first prosecutor, Julius Ajakaye and one of the defence counsels, Adamu Ibrahim had passed on.
Giving details of the Court judgement, Justice Faji said that the case was a sensitive issue bothering on national security of the nation, which attracts life imprisonment, but he used the discretion of the Court to sentence the offenders to 16 years, to serve as deterrent for others.
Giving further details of the judgement, the Judge informed that the 661 Pump Action Rifles were imported in a 40ft container with number PONU 825914/3 from Turkey through Apapa Port in Lagos into the country but falsely declared as steel doors. In a deliberate attempt to prevent security checks at the seaport, the convicts allegedly forged the bill of lading, the Form ‘M’ and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report to facilitate the illegal importation.
More so, details presented during prosecution revealed that the bill of lading issued in Istanbul on January 9, 2017, was equally forged to reflect Shanghai, China, while Hassan allegedly offered N1 million bribe to officials at the seaport to escape security checks.
*Back ground details*
Recall that in 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), intercepted a truck with registration number BDG 265 XG, conveying 1x40ft container with Number: PONU/825914/3, along Mile – 2, Apapa-Oshodi expressway, Lagos.
The consignment was intercepted by the Roving Team of Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ while on routine patrol. During physical examination, 49 boxes containing pump action rifles were found and three suspects were arrested in connection with the illegal importation of the firearms.
The case, which attracted attention of the entire country culminated in a world press conference, which the Comptroller-General of Customs, CGC Hameed Ali, came to Lagos personally and addressed the media.
Thus, this Court judgement is the outcome of that seizure.