(NAN) – A combined team of security agencies led by the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) on Friday impounded 11 cartons of explosives weighing 95kg at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja.
The Customs Area Controller at MMIA, Mr Charles Edike, disclosed this while parading before journalists some of the suspects linked to the importation.
The explosives were said to have been smuggled into Nigeria on Feb. 24, but were labelled as catridge powder devices and chargers, he said.
Edike disclosed that other items that were seized by the MMIA NCS Command included bullet-proof jackets, security cameras, naval belts and other items.
They were allegedly flown in from South Africa but officials of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Limited (NAHCO) alerted security agencies that the goods were being kept in their warehouse, he said.
Edike added that this was when the security agencies observed that the importer wanted to smuggle them out of the cargo terminal without declaring the items.
He also alleged that the importer did not want to pay the relevant duty on the items.
Edike explained that the importer, who claimed that he was a miner in Kaduna State, brought in the explosives into Nigeria concealed in pallets containing other goods, without disclosing their content.
This, he said, contravened government rules.
The suspected importer, according to Edike, later affirmed that he colluded with some clearing agents to take the explosives out of the cargo terminal, without securing the relevant police permit and making any duty payment.
Edike explained that vigilant security agents at the terminal noticed that the goods were undeclared explosives and that they were concealed in other goods.
The NCS in turn informed other relevant agencies, including the Nigeria Police, to carry out some tests on the items, which were found to be prohibited explosives, Edike said.
He gave the name of the consignee as Miero Marble Granite and Stones Limited in Kaduna State, while one Mr Michael Awara Ernest was the representative detailed to collect the explosives at the cargo terminal.
The Customs boss further gave the name of the manufacturer (consigner) of the explosives as Nobleteq Arms and Ammunition of Gateway Industrial Park in Centurion, South Africa.
Edike explained that it was prohibited for anybody or organisation to import any explosives into the country without relevant approvals and permits.
The Customs boss explained that the explosives had been handed over to the police and other security agencies for proper investigation, to ascertain the motive for the items.
He warned that the long arm of the law would catch up with operators who did not abide by government rules and regulations.
Edike warned that it was wrong and criminal for anybody to import and try to clear any prohibited goods out of the airport, without proper documentation and payment of the prescribed duty charges.
“There was no documentation or duty paid. The explosives were concealed in pallets containing other items.
“ Even the law does not permit that any consignment can be released without physical examination, which must be done after the relevant payments have been made.
“ In this case, the explosives were almost released, but the vigilance of our officials led to the discovery,’’ he said.
Edike said that preliminary investigations had revealed that the explosives were meant for marine and offshore Operations.
He added that their importation was against the Explosives Act of 1964, and that it also violated all existing regulations and even contravened the law.
“If these items were released to him, they could have been used to cause mayhem; we are now going to hand him and the items over to the Police for further investigations,’’ Edike said.
He said that what had happened was an absolute prohibition and the importer needed a permit, a user certificate and a police permit, but he did not secure these documents, yet he embarked on the criminal way to smuggle out the explosives.
“We want to warn that no agent should have access to any consignment until relevant payments, including government duty, are paid.
“In this case, the consignee only paid handling charges and he tried to evade customs Duty, which he ought to have paid first,’’ he said. (NAN)