Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday refused to grant bail to two businessmen, Ayogu, Great James and Ifeuwa Moses Christ accused of illegally and unlawfully importing 1570 pump action rifles into Nigeria, through the Apapa Seaport, Lagos.
Justice Saidu in a ruling on the bail applications filed by the accused persons held that individual liberty could not be placed above national security.
The two men alongside a limited liability company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited, were arraigned before the court by the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) on allegations of conspiracy, illegal and unlawful importation of firearms, uttering of Customs’ forms, forgery and false declaration.
The prosecutors, Julius Ajakaiye a Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, told the court during their arraignment that the offences are contrary to and punishable under Section 3(6), 1(14)(a), 1(14)(a)(i), 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Delivering his ruling on Wednesday, the court held, “The charges against the defendants is considered a serious charge, with the level of insecurity in the country, such as armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and the rest.
“Considering the nature of the charge, I cannot exercise my discretion in favour of the defendants; I hereby refuse the bail applications,” the court held.
After the ruling, the prosecutor informed the court that he had consolidated the charge against the accused persons.
Ajakaiye also stated that the charge was amended to include one Emeka Festus, also known as Amankwa, who had been at large when others were arraigned on October 11.
Following no objection from the defence counsel, the plea of all accused persons were taken on the amended charge.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge, the court then adjourned the case until November 22 for trial.
According to the charge, the prosecutor alleged that between September 6 and 20, 2017, the accused conspired to unlawfully import a total of 1570 pump action rifles into Nigeria, through the Apapa Seaport in Lagos.
He told the court that the rifles were loaded in two 20 feet containers, marked GESU 2555208 and CMAU 1878178.
Ajakaiye, told the court that in a bid to illegally bring in the weapons, the accused altered and forged a bill of lading, issued on July 28, 2017, to read Guandong, China, instead of Istanbul, Turkey, which was written on the conveying container.
He said that the accused also altered form M (application for Import) and a Pre-arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), issued on Aug.28, 2017, with number MF 20170080364 and CN 20170768490/001, respectively, to read Guandong, China instead of Istanbul, Turkey, as country of origin.
The accused were also said to have altered a bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued on July 28, 2017, to read 230 packages of wash hand basin and W/C, as the content in the container used in shipping in the illegal firearms.
The offences contravenes the provisions of sections 1 (14) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation 2004.
It also contravenes the provisions of Section 1 (2) (c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation 2004.