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A front-line security consultant and former British police officer, Vince Onyekwelu, has said the recent seizure of arms, especially pump-action rifles, by the Nigerian Customs Service, paints a worrisome picture.
According to him, the situation could be attributed to the poor management of port authority and port systems in Nigeria.
He maintained that the Nigerian Customs Service was not adequately equipped to scan and easily detect illegal weapons.
He explained further that the choice of pump-action rifles was indicative of an interest in close combat, as they were for home defense.
Onyekwelu said this when he spoke about the interception and seizure by Customs of 2,671 pump-action rifles smuggled into the country between January and September this year during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today with Seun Okinbaloye.
“Basically, what it means is that for these four consignments of pump-action (rifles) that were luckily impounded, there is a chance that another 100 containers of such weapons have gone through the country,” he said
“Pump-action is mostly for people that want to have something to defend themselves and their families at home because it has a very big capacity for close-contact combat and, obviously, you don’t need to be a specialist in targeting because it uses cartridges,” he said.
“What it tells me is that in Nigeria today, because of the poor management of our port authority, port systems, shotguns could be all over the Nigerian market; the fantastic AK-47, bullets, ammunition, grenades – there are so many dangerous weapons out there. So, I am very worried.”
He, however, appreciated the “hard work of the officers of the Nigerians Customs” who he said basically work with their bare hands and generate huge sums of money for the Federal Government year after year with little reward equipment-wise.
“When I say they work with their bare hands, what I mean by that is, when you have a service like the Nigerian Customs Service; in 2015, they made over N900bn. When you take off the VAT (Value Added Tax) it comes down to about N800bn made for the Nigerian government. In 2016, they made N920bn, take off the VAT and that comes down to N720bn. These are huge sums of money the Nigerian Customs have made for the Nigerian government,” Onyekwelu said.
“So, it is very worrisome that the Nigerian government could not buy the Nigerian Customs Service a simple vehicle inspection scanner. I am so surprised that in this 21st Century, a service like the Nigerian Customs Service would be working without technology supporting what their intelligence teams are doing.”
For him, a port like Tin-Can Island shouldn’t operate with one scanner; it should have at least three.
“There should be a scanner for every container leaving the port; that is number one. There should be a scanner for all the containers that are going into the port. So, we are talking about entry and exit scanners,” he said.
“Then, inside the port, you should have a mobile scanner system for on-the-point check. If there is any suspicion, you should be able to use that scanner to check the content of a container. So, they cannot even afford one when they need three.”
As a result, the security consultant believes the NCS is ill-equipped for their role.
“Basically, what you have in the Nigerian Customs today is like farmers choosing not to buy tractors for their farming and they choose to employ a thousand people to use hoes and cutlasses to work when they can just bring in two tractors and the work is done.”