For the third time this year, the men and women of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have intercepted illegal arms in Lagos. A total of 1,100 pump action rifles in a 20-foot container were intercepted at the Tin Can Port, Lagos on Monday. Earlier in the year, on March 10, some 661 pump-action rifles were intercepted, while another 440 rifles were intercepted on May 23.
These seizures are, indeed, worrisome, as they add another dangerous dimension to the problem of insecurity in the country. With so many illegal arms in the hands of unscrupulous persons in the country, what hope can there be for security and peaceful living? This is more so at this period when kidnappers and armed robbers are exacting a huge toll from Nigerians.
It is necessary to commend the NCS officials for intercepting these weapons. It is good that, in spite of the widely perceived corruption in the service, importers of deadly cargo such as these ones were not allowed to get away with the crime. But then, the service must go beyond the arrests to bring all those involved in the illegal importations to book.
The NCS Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has said that the arrests and investigations would go beyond the Customs officials involved to the shippers and shipping agents who handled the cargo. The prosecution of those involved in this criminal activity should also go beyond statements by the NCS high command. The people involved should be prosecuted and punished, and widely seen to have been punished by Nigerians, to serve as a deterrent to others who may be planning such illegal importations into the country.
It is unfortunate that at this time when there are so many problems in the country and when all hands ought to be on deck to correct all the ills plaguing the country, some Nigerians would choose to deal in arms, which are nothing but weapons of destruction. The incessant interceptions of these arms are all the more troubling in the face of the different separatist agitations, hate speeches and other fissiparous tendencies in the country. The large number of arms intercepted suggests that they are not for mere sale to unscrupulous elements for armed robbery and other such activities. The impression that they create is that they may be planned for a grand design to threaten the peace and stability of the country.
This is why the Federal Government must go beyond the interception of the arms to investigating their importers and the purpose for their importation. The investigation should not at all be limited to the foot soldiers who go to clear and evacuate the goods at the ports, because they may not even be able to buy a single gun. The investigation should reach the actual sponsors and importers of the arms, and their collaborators in the Customs Service, if Nigeria is to make any headway in the battle to stop such deadly imports into the country. The probe of the seizure needs to be comprehensive, so that the intendments of the importers are made known. This is critical because while it is good that these particular gun seizures were made, dozens of others might have passed through the ports undetected, and could be used to wreak havoc in the country. But, when the actual source of any of the imports is determined, it could go a long way in determining the real sponsors and help nip whatever nefarious activities they intend to perpetrate with the arms in the bud.
One lesson that the country must learn from the interception of these arms is that the relevant security agencies cannot be too vigilant. They must always be on their toes to ensure that the plans of evil persons who do not mean well for the country are not allowed to see the light of day. As it is said, the price that we need to pay for security is eternal vigilance. Without it, the whole nation is doomed. It is, however, necessary to enjoin Nigerians to embrace peace and unity. While there are many reasons why some segments of the Nigerian population may be disgruntled and unhappy about the structure of the country, they must strive to embrace peace and ensure that they convey their grouses and demands in a peaceful manner that will not threaten the peace and stability of the country.
To reduce the rising wave of crime in the country, the government should make it easier for the people to be able make a responsible living the country. The environment of the country should be made conducive to business so that entrepreneurial initiatives can be sustained and jobs can be created. The devil, as they say, creates jobs for idle hands.
Unemployment is one of the key reasons that there are so many idle hands willing to wield the illegal arms that are imported into the country. We can be sure that very few of the “big man” importers of these arms will ever physically use them. They will be given to the teeming army of hungry, disenfranchised and unemployed Nigerians who will wield them on their behalf in exchange for pittance. Many times, these unfortunate foot soldiers do not even know anything about the proxy wars they are fighting on behalf of their “benefactors”, who give them guns to fight and disrupt the peace of the country in exchange for a pot of porridge.
I commend the NCS for the seizures which suggest that its officials are alive to their responsibility. The officers should keep this up and also ensure that they remain above board in dealing with importers of deadly imports of this nature.