By YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday said it would begin seizure of any vessel that convey illegal arms and ammunitions into the country.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting with shipping companies, terminal operators, clearing agents and shippers organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos, the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) said it would no longer accept excuse by shipping companies that they are not in the know of the goods in the containers.
He recalled that between January to September, 2017, 2671 pieces of pump action riffles were imported into the country from Turkey through the Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports. But, Col.
He said: “The issue of ignorance regarding contents of the containers does not arise and it won’t be accepted by authorities in Nigeria anymore. I have been appealing to my brother who is in charge of the tracking process and he said the tracking process will start and any ship that come with illicit goods onboard, the laws allow us to detain and even seize it and this is very clear.
“We have been very liberal and at the same time we cannot forsake the security of our own nation by being liberal. We will apply the law as it is being applied globally. When we get any infractions we will apply the law to its fullest.’’
A visibly angry Customs CG queried why shipping firms would feign ignorance of content of containers being conveyed.
“We came across manifest that that Shipping companies will pick up containers and will say said to contain but if I put bombs in a container and I said ‘said to contain steel doors’, will they (shipping companies) convey it?” he asked rhetorically.
Speaking further, Col. Ali said, “I believe no shipping line will agree to carry a consignment without knowing what exactly is in that consignment so this manifest saying ‘Said To Contain” does not make sense and when we find illicit items we will hold the shipping line responsible because it is their business. “Before you accept ‘Said To Contain’, you must know what is inside.”
Speaking earlier, the convener of the meeting and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello said the meeting is to have the critical stakeholders proffer solutions and make suggestions on how to address incessant arms importation into the country.
“The essence of this meeting is to have the crucial stakeholders prefer solution and suggestions on how we can address the issues at the ports such as the arms import, so that we can have less of these things. The more we prevent these dangerous items from our shores, the better for our economy and security as a nation.