The Federal Government on Tuesday arraigned a businessman, Ayogu James, for allegedly importing 1,570 pump action rifles without licence.
He was arraigned at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He allegedly committed the offence between September 6 and 20 last year and was arrested by men of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Ayogu, who lives in Gwarimpa, Abuja, was charged along with his company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited, and Emeka Festus, said to be at large.
The prosecution had on October 11, arraigned Ayogu’s associate Ifeuwa Moses for shipping the arms. Ayogu was said to be at large then.
The defendants were accused of conspiring to import the rifles between November 6 and 20 2017 using a 1-by-20ft container marked GESU 2555208.
Prosecuting counsel Julius Ajakaiye said the defendants claimed there were hand wash basins in the container, but rifles were discovered when it was searched.
Moses and his alleged accomplices were accused of forging a bill of lading marked ISB0281398 issued on July 28, 2017 to read GUANGDONG-CHINA instead of ISTANBUL-TURKEY with intent that it would be acted upon as genuine by Customs officers.
They were also alleged to have forged a bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued on July 28, 2017, to read: “230 packages of wash hand basin and W/C” as the container’s content.
The alleged offence is contrary to section 1 (2) (c) and 1 (14) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 of the Laws of the Federation 2004.
Ajakaiye, a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, arraigned Ayogu on 11 counts bordering on conspiracy, illegal importation of firearms and forgery and “uttering” of Customs’ import documents.
The defendants pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutor said the pump action rifles were imported through Apapa Seaport, Lagos.
He urged the court to remand the accused in prison custody until the case is decided.
Defence counsel Mrs. I. F. Ekwoanya urged the court to grant his clients bail in a liberal terms.
Justice Saliu Saidu asked her to file a formal application backed by an affidavit.
He ordered the defendants’ remand in prison and adjourned until November 20 and 21 for trial.
@ The Nation