Illegal Firearms: AGF oppose bail application for accused men

Recovered Arms
Some of the recovered arms from the accused by the Nigerian Customs Service
Recovered Arms
Some of the recovered arms from the accused by the Nigerian Customs Service

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) today strongly opposed the bail application filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos on behalf of five accused men alleged to have imported 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.

The prosecuting counsel from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation K.A. Fagbemi, while opposing the bail applications filed by the accused, told the court that it would not augur well for them to be released into the society on bail.

Fagbemi, who noted that one of the five accused persons was still at large, argued further that it was not even healthy for the court to release the other four on bail as their lives might be at risk.

“He is still out there. He could be a risk to their own lives. It’s one of the grounds that the defendants should not be granted bail for their own good,” Fagbemi said.

The accused – Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said to be at large, and Salihu Danjuma – had been arraigned by the AGF on June 14 for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into Nigeria without lawful authority.

They were arraigned on eight counts charge before Justice Ayokunle Faji, who ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody after they had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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During today’s proceedings, the defence counsel – Yakubu Galadima, Godwin Okaka, Olumide Oyewole and Adamu Ibrahim arguing the bail applications for their clients, promised that if they were released on bail they would not abscond but make themselves available for their trial.

Oyewole told the court that his client was ill and needed medical treatment, showing a medical report issued by the Isolo General Hospital.

However Federal Government’s lawyer, Fagbemi opposed them and urged the court to dismiss their bail applications.

After entertaining arguments from the two parties, Justice Faji adjourned till June 6, 2017 for ruling.

In the charges, the AGF said the accused brought 661 pump-action rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely declared contained steel doors.

To facilitate the illegal importation, the accused allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.

In order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused persons allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.

In the forged bill of lading, they allegedly filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.

They were also alleged to have offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”

The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1m to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs official when the defendants between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barreled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos.

The offences alleged to have been committed by the accused persons were contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.

Upon their arraignment on June 14, they pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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