NCS's 661 seized Pump Action rifles: The lingering questions

By Editor on 02/02/2017

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Some of the rifles

In the early hours of Monday, January 30, when most people were still buried in their daily activities, the news broke of how the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), intercepted a vehicle bearing 661 units of Pump Action rifles.

If the news, which was all over in the social media and some electronic media, was meant to be a bang, it earned so substantially. For many Nigerians, lapped it up like hungry dogs, as they always do in such circumstances.

Till today, the development has continued to elicit some favourable mentions on different platforms within the society. Of course, the purveyors of that news, may have gone back to their offices relaxed and satisfied that they have done a great job.

No doubt, some of the officers, including Hameed Ali, the Director General of Customs (DGC), may have gone ahead to fill up and clink their glasses in the belief that citizens out there were now abreast of how hard the organisation is working for the benefit of the masses.

Image result for Nigerian customs seized rifles

Ali, displaying the rifles

Naturally, they deserve to feel so and even entertain themselves as a result. But that is to the extent that many Nigerians did not and are still not adverting their minds to the right issues that ought to be raised in relations to the said feat and therefore stand confused or even deceived, were that the actual intentions of the retired military chief and his chieftains.

Ordinarily, nobody would have thought anything outside the picture the Customs boss is presenting, were it not for the timing. That is why calls for caution.

Recall that this seizure is coming just days after the same organisation handed over two aircrafts to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). Recall also that at the time the aircrafts were being handed over, the NCS officials gave the impression that they were not only abandoned, but that the illegal importers were unknown.

Hear Dan Ugo, Deputy Controller of Customs (DDC), during the event: “The consignment was detained at SAHCOL cargo shed. Upon examination, the consignment was found to contain two civil models of Bell Helicopters 412 EP, with serial numbers 36608 and 36606. The consignment also contains 23 packages of accessories, weighing 11,475kg.”

“The unknown importer could not produce end user certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) an act which contravenes section 36 (2) of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), Law of Nigeria, 2004.”

He added: “This equipment was seized because the importer contravened the customs Act. The Comptroller General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, in appreciation of the roles of air force, has directed that the equipment should be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force.

“When we make seizures, we go through legal process by approaching the court of competent jurisdiction to file for condemnation and forfeiture to the federal government of Nigeria, which had been done.”

What impression does one glean from this. Obviously, the choppers were seized from unknown persons that illegally imported them and that Ali, used his powers to transfer the aircrafts to the NAF. Lie!

For, before the echo from this self-adulating speech could die down, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike riposted from his base in Port Harcourt that the organisation should tell Nigerians the truth about the ownership and circumstances surrounding the entire saga.

He went ahead to reveal that the two aircrafts were actually acquired by his predecessor, now Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, but that he (Wike), wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari to transfer the choppers to the NAF for use.

A day letter, Amaechi, himself owned up to the story, though he gave his version that the planes were actually acquired with the blessing of ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan, but was not cleared by the Rivers Government, due to the refusal of the same Jonathan to give the necessary Federal Government backing.

Now, it serves little purpose to go into the back and forth argument between Amaechi and Wike over what transpired. At best, that could be reserved for another occasion.

What is important is that the news of this big haul, is coming at the time of the heat the helicopter saga is generating across the country and the questions Nigerians were already asking about the role of the organisation in it.

In other words, it is not out of place for anybody to suspect that the Ali-led Customs was only trying to mitigate the monumental effect of the lie they told Nigerians in trying to conceal the truth behind the helicopter saga, by pulling the wool over the eyes of the public through the Pump Action story.

Nothing else will sound more credible than this is a mere cover-up for this earlier told big lie. And that is the tragedy. It is said that a person being admired in the public for his beauty and cleanliness, is not supposed to be playing with dust.

That is what Col. Ali has done. The retired army boss, was presented to Nigerians as one as clean as a pin. But if he is the one now being found to have engaged in this big lie, where then lies the image, with which Nigerians were told he is the right man to clean the Customs?

There is no need going into the merit of the accompanying story of the 661 Pump Action rifles and how the seizure was made. Some aspects of it sound so porous and obtuse that only an imbecile will believe them.

Besides, what is in a rifle? These are mere hunting guns meant for gaming. In fact, for those who know, a Pump Action rifle, which many Nigerians are licensed to carry, cannot even be used in gaming big animals beyond porcupines and grasscutters.

Only on few occasions do the police display such guns while parading criminals, which presupposes that no serious criminal would use them for high-level operations, because of their manifest shortcomings.

Let it therefore be clear that is unfazed by the hullaballoo trailing this story, including the fact that the NCS, has also declared some of the officers linked with clearing the rifles at the ports, wanted.

Assuming, but not conceding that it is not a diversionary measure, we state unequivocally that the event, does not merit the attention Ali and his men want us to pay for it. At best, it is a story, but not the STORY. If it is not a deceit, it deserves an applause, but not an ovation, a drink, but not a party.



Posted on February, 2 2017

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