A prosecution witness, Abdulahi Muhammad, in the on going trial of five accused persons charged for illegally importing 661 pump action rifles into Nigeria, sometimes in January, 2017, has told a Federal High Court, in Lagos, how the supposed importer of the weapons attempted to bribe him with N8m.
The accused persons standing trial are: Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo and Salihu Abdullahi Danjuma, while the fifth accused, Mathew Okoye, is said to be at large.
The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney-General of the Federation, on charges bordering on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, uttering and forging document, corruptly giving bribe to public officials and importation of prohibited goods.
The offences alleged to have been committed by the defendant are contrary to sections 3(6),1(14)(a) (I), 1(2)(c) and 98A (1)(b) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons, the prosecutor, Julius Ajakaye, informed the court of amended charge and pleaded with the court to allow the new charge be read to them for the defendants’ plea to be re-taken.
The amended charge marked FHC /L/190c/2017, has the following as defendants: Hassan Trade Nigeria Limited, Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo, Mathew Okoye (at large) and Salihu Abdullahi Danjuma
The prosecution witness, Abdullahi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, while been led-in-evidence, by Ajakaye, told the court that, when he refused the N8m bribe offered by Mahmud, after his container marked PONU 825914/3, that transported the guns was impounded, the importer threatened to kill himself.
He said: “on January 22, 2017, I led a patrol team called ‘Lagos Roving Team, which was headed by Adamu Abubakar. Around 12 midnight, we sighted a container on Apapa-Mile 2 Bridge, and we intercepted it.
“As at the time of interception, the Customs Clearance document, was not giving to us by the escort, this made us to suspect the container. It was when they realised that the truck is heading to Ikeja, that the escort started calling the second defendant (Mahmud), who told the escort to give us the document.
“Upon receiving the document, I went through it, three things made me to suspect the container. First was that, in the declaration, it was stated that the container carries 225 doors, and a container of 40 feet carries more than that. Also, the origin of the container, which was Turkey, the doors that normally come from Turkey are security doors, not steel doors, and lastly, the Customs duty paid which was N1,170,628 million, was not enough.
The witness stated further that when his team got to the 2nd Rainbow area of the Apapa-Mile 2 Road, which is their patrol base, the second defendant (Mahmud) arrived the place and became restless, and stated that the container belonged to him and that it only contained rice.
He said: “When we got to the second rainbow, not up to five minutes, the second defendant arrived and told us that the container is his, he also told me that he has rice in the container.
“It was then I called Area Comptroler (AC) Adam, that I have arrested a container, and Mahmud said he is the owner. He claimed to have rice in it, but in the declaration, it was steel doors.
“Then he started to bribe me. He offered me N500,000, and later increased it to N8m, I continued listening to him, and told my colleagues that what he offered me. When I went back to him, he told me that if I did not take the money he will kill himself. I then called my boss and told him, and my boss said if he killed me and himself, I should bring the container and his corpse to him”.
The witness also told the court how Mahmud led his agency to arrest the third defendant (Oscar Okafor), at Golden Tulp Hotel, Festac Town,thereafter, the matter was referred to the Directorate of State Security (DSS) in Shangisha, where both the Customs and all the defendants wrote statements.
The witness during the cross-examination, by the lawyers to the accused persons, which includes: Danjuma Galadima, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Paul Ananaba (SAN), Saliu Ibrahim, stated that he cannot remember the exact date that they all wrote their statement at the DSS office, as he gave conflicting date on his three statements with the following dates March 23, 2017, January 23, 2017 and March 23, 2017.
He also stated that he did not know if the container pass through the examination at the port before it was released, adding that Mahmud Hassan was the importer of the cargo not the third accused.
The presiding Judge, Justice Ayotunde Faji, has adjourned for continuation of trial
In the amended charge number, all the accused persons alleged to have conspired with one another to illegally import into Nigeria 661 Pump Action Rifles.
They were also alleged to have forged the documents which includes: two Bill of Ladings, one reads ‘Shanghai China’, as Port of Loading, instead of ‘Istanbul’, and another one which reads: ‘Steel Doors’, as the contents of the container instead oIm Customs’ Form M, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) used in smuggling the the said 661 rifles Into the country.
In particular, the one of the Customs Officials, Mahmud Hassan, was alleged to have corruptly offered the sum of N400, 000.00, to one Aliu Musa, the Examination Officer of the Federal Operation Unit of the Customs Service with an intent to prevent hundred percent search on the container marked PONU 825914/3, which was used in bringing into the country the said arms.
Mahmud Hassan was also alleged to have corruptly gave the sum of N1 million to Government officials at Apapa Port, through his colleague, Danjuma Abdulahi, in order to prevent the searching of the said container used in bringing in the 661 illegally imported Pump Action rifles.