The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Friday reacted to reports of a Lagos-bound ship full of illegal arms arrested and detained in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Recall that TNG reported on Thursday that LADA, a Russian flagged ship, belonging to St. Petersburg-based operator, Transflot, arrived Port Elizabeth on a voyage from Tulear, Madagascar en route to Lagos.
The arms and explosives found on the ship are valued at $3.5m (about N1.07bn), according to the report.
However, reacting in a telephone interview with on Friday, the NCS Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah, said the service could not comment on the vessel because it had yet to arrive the country, adding that the agency had no knowledge of the ship or its content.
He said, “The duty of the Nigeria Customs Service is to prevent any harmful commodity from entering Nigeria. Until the said ship gets here, we cannot say anything about it because we do not have that information.”
Another Customs source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We also got the news the way you got it, from the social media and news sources.”
However, a freight forwarder and Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr. Osita Chukwu, told one of our correspondents that nobody knew the shipping agent of LADA.
He said, “The ship will not have a clearing agent until it gets to Nigeria. We don’t even know the shipping agent. It could be transhipment, the owner of the cargo may have been a Nigerian but the ship’s destination may not be Nigeria ultimately.”
Another official, who confided in our correspondent, said the issue of arms importation was a sensitive one that involved national security, adding that it would be premature to declare anyone wanted.
He, however, expressed fears that Nigeria would not be able to arrest or prosecute the perpetrators.
He said, “I commend the government of South Africa for the arrest of that vessel. That is a country that has regard for the rule of law and you can be sure that those implicated will be prosecuted. I’m calling for a full investigation into the matter. I’m challenging customs to get to the root of the matter and not spare anyone that has been implicated. That is how you curb criminality.”