The Department of State Security (DSS) yesterday told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that one of the officers of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) who illegally imported 661 pump action guns into the country last year January has been smuggling guns into the country for the past 12 years.
This revelation was made by the Head of Investigation in the DSS, Wale Odu, at the going trial of the two Customs officers identified as Muhmud Hassan and Salisu Abdulahi Danjuma, as well as three others, Oscar Orkafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo and Matthew Okoye over alleged illegal importation of fire arms, conspiracy, forgery and altering of documents, offering of graft to government officials and importation of prohibited goods.
The DSS official, who is a prosecution witness in the case, also explained the process of the investigation to the trial judge, Ayotunde Faji.
The head of DSS investigation team told the court that the sixth accused, Donatus Achinulo, revealed to him that he has been in the business of illegal arms importation since 2012 and confessed that he has been doing the business with the third accused, Okafor Oscar.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons yesterday, Odu, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Julius Ajaikaye, said, “On February, 2017, the DSS took over the case of illegal importation of firearms from the Nigeria Customs Services. While taking over the case, the two defendants, Hassan Mahmud and Okafor Oscar, also known as Okafor Osita, were handed over to DSS for investigation of illegal importation of 661 pump action rifles.
“I interacted with the second defendant, Hassan Mahmud, who told me that he is a sole director of Hassan Trade Nigeria Limited, which is the consignee and importer of the illegally imported 661 pump action rifles.
“In respect of the container, he and Oscar had several meeting at Southern Sun Hotel, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, where he agreed to collect N4 million for the clearance of the container. He said that in one of the meeting, Oscar told him that the container is carrying pump action rifles, which was the reason for charging him N4 million”.
The witness also told the court that the second accused confessed to him that he paid N1 million to the fourth accused person, Danjuma Abdulahi, to facilitate the clearance of the container from Apapa Port without due process.
He further told the court that Hassan Mahmud confessed to him that being an Assistant Comptroller of Customs (ACC), he has illegal way of shielding the container from 100 per cent inspection.
Odu also told the court that the second accused told him that after the interception of the container, he called Oscar and told him that some millions will be required to prevent it from being taking to Customs office so that the content (the pump action rifles) will not be discovered.
He added that upon refusal of men of Nigeria Customs to collect the money, the container was taken to Customs office where 100 per cent investigation was conducted in his presence and the 661 pump action rifles were discovered.
The witness also stated that the second accused confessed to him of bribing men of the NCS with N400, 000, which he claimed to have collected from the third accused, Okafor Oscar, but the Customs officers refused to accept.
On his interaction with the third accused, Okafor Oscar, also known as Okafor Osita, the DSS Head of Investigation said the accused confessed to him that he participated in loading the container in Turkey with one Okoye Matthew (now at large) and that he handed over a falsified Bill of Lading to Hassan Mahmud for clearance of the container in Nigeria.
The witness also told the court that the accused confessed to him that he had series of meeting with the second accused at Southern Sun Hotel, Ikoyi, on how to handle the container, adding that he has been doing business of importation with the second accused for years.
He mentioned the name of Donatus Ezenbuwa Achinulo as a partner in the business of importation of arms, and Matthew Okoye (now at large), as a partner in arm smuggling business from Turkey to Nigeria.
On his interaction with the fourth accused, Danjuma Abdulahi, the witness stated that the accused confessed collecting N1 million from the second accused, Hassan Mahmud, to facilitate the clearance with the examination of the container.
The witness also said the accused confessed giving two men of the NCS, who managed the gate of Apapa Seaport, Emmanuel Silas and Abiodun Taiwo, the sum of N100, 000, after telling them that the container has no valid papers, adding that the accused confessed to him that no examination was conducted on the container.
The witness also told the court that the accused confessed to him that the second accused, Hassan Mahmud, was the person that cleared most of illegal arms imported into the country.
The witness told the court that after his interaction with all accused persons, both Hassan Mahmud and Okafor Oscar volunteered to write statements, while Danjuma Abdulahi and Donatus Achinulo, on request asked Saheed Adetunji and Fola Oni to take down their statements.
However, the trial of the accused persons was brought to an end, following an objection raised by Hassan Mahmud’s lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, who raised objection to the tendering of his client’s statement by the prosecution.
Galadima had objected to the tendering of the statement on the ground that statement was obtained under duress.
Lawyers to the other accused persons, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Dr. Paul Ananaba (SAN) and Abdulahi also aligned themselves with Galadima’s submission and urged the court to conduct trial-within-trial to ascertain the veracity of the statement.
Consequently, the presiding judge, Justice Ayotunde Faji, adjourned the matter till tomorrow, Wednesday January 24, for trial-within-trial and continuation of trial of the accused persons.
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