For a country passing through what could pass for the worst security threats in its existence, the interception of six mine-resistant vehicles in Fufore Local Government Area of Adamawa State by soldiers of the 23 Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Yola, should be a source of worry. This worry is not for the security agencies alone, it should also worry the average Nigerian because of the implications of moving such military equipment without the necessary clearance, or without even our military authorities being in the know. This, at least, was the impression given by the military when the commander of the 23 Armoured Brigade, S.G. Mohammed, handed over the vehicles to the comptroller of Customs in-charge of Adamawa and Taraba states, Olumoh Kamaldeen, at Konkol, in the local government area.
This is not the first time dangerous equipment and weapons have been intercepted in the country. As a matter of fact, there has been at least one such interception every year in the last three years. In 2016, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Tin Can Islands Port Command, impounded a cache of arms, ammunition and military gadgets smuggled into the country from the United States. The weapons included one Omin American Tactical Rifle with serial no: AR48634; one Moasberg American Pump Action (U648081); Permier Hollow Point (air gun pallets) 7,500 pieces, nine pieces of military bullet proof vests, one piece of military helmet with rainproof, pistol punch, rifle punch and 26 packs of already made military food. They were all prohibited items; prohibited in the sense that they cannot be imported or exported without authorisation.
Barely eight months later, the Customs again intercepted another arms cache at the same Tin Can Island suspected to have come from Turkey. This was barely a week after the command intercepted a 20-foot container-load of 1,100 pump action rifles. Then, in 2108, the Tin Can Island Customs Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) again stopped a cache of ammunition at two terminals. The Customs Area Controller of the command, Musa Abdullahi, said in Lagos that about 150 rounds of live ammunition were intercepted at Terminal ‘C’ (Ports& Cargo) while 28 pieces of various sizes of jack knives were found in a 1 x 40ft container No. TGHU 60143419.
With these interceptions, it should not be difficult to know the sources of the arms and ammunition that criminals and terrorists have been using to give law-abiding Nigerians sleepless nights.
This latest interception in Adamawa State however beats the imagination. It is shocking because this cannot qualify for small arms, the proliferation of which has been a source of apprehension in the country, especially given the intolerable level of insecurity.
Mine-resistant vehicles are not needles or guns that could be tucked under people’s cloths or even concealed in the boots of vehicles. How come six of them would pass from the ports in Lagos all through to Adamawa State before being intercepted? If such heavy military equipment could move that long distance before being detected and arrested, what then is the assurance that more dangerous equipment had not passed under the proverbial bridge undetected in the past?
The Army Headquarters has ordered a probe into the matter, with a view to determining the ownership of the equipment, the source, as well as their destination. This is good. However, we must warn against any attempt to sweep this matter under the carpet. Security is a collective responsibility. Such equipment cannot be brought into the country without authorisation, which can only come from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the only agency with powers to issue such document. Given the information in the public space, it does not appear the ONSA is aware of the importation of these equipment.
We anxiously await the outcome of the investigation.
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