Concerned maritime experts have expressed the possibilities of having more arms being smuggled into Nigeria, if the proper checks and inspection mechanisms are not put in place at the seaports.
Notwithstanding the commendations that trailed the feat achieved by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), many stakeholders believe the nation’s seaports should be better-guarded and monitored through standard technologies and implementation of global conventions.
The 1100 pump-action rifles intercepted at the TinCan Island Port Complex by the customs last week made a total of 2,201 arms seized at three different times at the ports this year.
The Customs had in January seized 661 pieces of pump action rifles. And in May, the operative intercepted another 440 pieces of assorted pump action rifles, which also originated from Turkey.
The National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, in a letter to the Presidency, said the practice of Destination Inspection (DI) in Nigerian ports allowed goods to be imported into the country without inspection, thereby jeopardising the chances of stopping contrabands.
He noted that this practice contravenes the provision of Customs-to-Customs Standards on WCO SAFE Framework of Standard, to secure and facilitate global trade, which Nigeria is a signatory.
He alleged that, “the Destination Inspection regime allows the illicit cross-border movement of weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Drugs, Arms, Ammunitions, counterfeit merchandised hazardous waste and human trafficking as presently practiced in Nigeria, which allows goods into Nigeria without pre-screening to identify high risk goods before shipment. There is serious concern about our import and export system, and the economy that is vulnerable to terrorist exploitation due to our cargo inspection regime,” he said.
The WCO Safe Framework provides for: Customs-to-Customs (C2C) Pillar, which allows for cooperation between customs authority in order to inspect cargo before it arrives at the destination ports on outbound and inbound of non-instructive inspection.
Also, the Custom-to-Business (C2B) Pillar aims to create an international system for identifying private business that offers a high degree of security/integrity.
Besides, he noted that the protocol of WCO Framework of Standard 2, 3, and 11 recommends scanners as the core for inspection of goods to detect high-risk cargo on security, and the facilitation tools as non-intrusive (scanning) inspection in order to reduce the laborious process of cargo inspection as contained in the WCO Standard.
Laborious Inspection without scanners, he said, encourages delays and results in payment of rent and demurrage by importer/agents.
The clearing agent in the letter recommended that: There is an urgent need for Nigeria, as a contracting party to the global Multi-layered Security protocol the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards, to comply with the protocol by reducing the illicit cross-border movement of unwholesome goods into the country.
Other recommendations are: “The urgent need to initiate the process of memorandum of understanding (MOU) with various countries, where cargo throughput of import is high, such as; China, Turkey, India, among others, for the agreement of Mutual Administrative Assistant for collaborative activities on the prevention, investigation, repression and transnational crime as contained in various conventions.
“There is urgent need to repair the collapsed scanners in the ports that is the core on security tool to reduce the influx of illicit goods in the country.
“There is the urgent need to safeguard and secure our nation from the influx of Arms, Ammunition, Narcotics, dirty Bomb, unwholesome items and Weapon of mass destruction (WMD) through the implementation of the provision of international Cargo Security Agreement,” he stated.
He stressed the need for the Federal Government to urgently constitute a committee of trade procedure experts to address the short fall in the import process, which constitutes bottlenecks and imped the component of trading across border on ease of doing business
Similarly, the National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Increase Uche, said: “Without doubt, the proliferation of arms has become a major concern to Nigerians, and a serious threat to National Security. With the new attitude of the Customs, it is not farfetched to come to the realisation that the country may be on its way to stopping arms and ammunition from getting into wrong hands, and thereby reducing crime rates in our country.
“It is our considered opinion therefore that more efforts be made by the Customs management in the areas of creating awareness showcasing their accomplishments and statutory responsibilities,” he said.
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, promised to collaborate with the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello; World Customs Organisation (WCO); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and work with the government of Turkey, to nip the scourge of arms importation to Nigeria in the bud.