The increased security checks at the nation’s seaports in the wake of the insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country has yielded fruits as a young man, Emmanuel Eko, has been arrested for importing of army camouflage boots, belts and other military accessories.
The 38-year-old man who has Nigerian and British international passports was apprehended yesterday officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Ports and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML) Command, Apapa, Lagos.
The suspect, who claimed to be a soldier with the British army was arrested becaused the items are listed.
Army camouflage, military uniforms, boots, belts and other military accessories are items listed in the Import Prohibition List (IPL) maintained by the NCS.
Eko who looked undisturbed as he answered questions from reporters, said the items were reportedly approved for clearance by the NCS and he was on his way out of the terminal when he was stopped at the exit gate of the port.
While parading the suspect before reporters, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), NCS, PTML Command, Comptroller Adegoke Folorunsho, said the suspect was arrested yesterday during an inward screening of a white bus imported from Hamburg, Germany.
Folrunsho who is barely two weeks in office, said the men and officers of NCS on duty who were shocked beyond words when they sighted the large quantity of the military camouflage and boots carefully concealed in a fairly used LT Volkswagen bus.
His words: "Immediately, the clearing agent who presented the bus for clearance was interrogated after which he was asked to invite the importer. We all know the state of insecurity in the country. If these items had slipped into the hands of terrorist groups, only God knows how many lives would have been lost.”
The CAC revealed that all efforts at ensuring that the suspect volunteered useful information to assist investigations into the matter proved abortive as he was said to have refused to provide any assistance to this effect.
Folorunsho also revealed that the suspect was unable to produce documents given to him by either the Ministry of Defence or the Nigerian Army for the importation of military equipment during interrogation.
His words: “We are all aware of reports alleging that members of terrorist groups who have been wreaking havoc in the North-eastern part of the country do so wearing military uniforms. If a non-military personnel is seen in these attires, unsuspecting members of the public might not be able to differentiate them from genuine soldiers. So it is criminal of those behind the importation of these items".
The customs chief noted that because the suspect cannot be detained indefinitely, the Controller General of Customs, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi, directed that the suspect along with the items be handed over to the Department of State Security (DSS) for further investigations and subsequent prosecution.
In his defence, Eko alleged that the items were detected by NCS on Tuesday and he was invited for questioning.
He explained that he went to the port on Wednesday with a view of resolving the matter, pointing out that in fact, the issue had been settled and the vehicle was on its way out when it was returned at the gate.
Eko also claimed that the Nigerian Army authority was contacted before it was allowed to go. He also alleged that two military officers who were assigned to get the uniforms were also at the Lagos port to take delivery of the items.