Concerns have been palpable across sections of the Nigerian public following repeated seizures, recently, of illicit arms originating allegedly from Turkey. The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, gave indication a syndicate in Turkey is behind an illegal arms shipment with accomplices in Nigeria.
Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali, retd, who disclosed this at a news briefing, named the alleged importer of the arms haul into the country as Great James Oil and Gas Limited. Since the beginning of 2017, four batches of arms, especially pump-action riffles, illegally imported into the country from Turkey had been seized. The first was 661 made in February; 440 in June; 1,100 and the latest one of 470 both seized in September, making a total of 2,671 rifles seized in less than one year.
However, Turkish authorities in Nigeria have denied their government has a hand in the illegal deals blaming it on smugglers. Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Hakan Cakil, at a meeting with Col. Hameed Ali on Tuesday 26th September, 2017 denied Turkey ever shipped any arms to Nigeria. Cakil argued that the four shipments intercepted by the NCS had false declaration on their bill of lading, suggesting they were a case of smuggling.
The Turkish envoy promised to communicate to his home country the outcome of the investigations from the NCS, with a pledge that Turkey would not support any dangerous shipment to Nigeria. This statement from the Turkish envoy is on record, and all eyes will be on him and his home country as to whether or not similar shipment will arrive Nigeria from Turkey. The Turkish government has also been put to task as to whether or not they will identify and get hold of the company and individuals in Turkey who are bent on circulating illegal weapons in Nigeria’s civil society.
It was soothing a bit when report came the Nigerian Customs had arrested and detained 28 officers working at the Tin-Can Island Command of the Service following the seizures, and that the officers and their civilian collaborators would soon appear in court after the Service has carried out a thorough investigation on the matter. It is encouraging also that Customs is already collaborating with the Department of State Service, DSS, and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA, to halt the illegal trade. We commend the commitment of the Customs under Ali to safeguard our ports to ensure illegal arms do not find their ways into civil society. We urge the Customs also not to spare any officer found to be derelict on his job, or to have compromised on rules that could have dire consequences for the entire country.
On the other hand, both Turkey and Nigeria are active members of the UN and are obliged to obey the resolutions of the August body against the proliferation of illicit weapons due to its tendency to complicate internal security and jeopardise peace. “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded,” declared then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the course of a remark at the 7036th meeting of the United Nations Security Council in September 2013. Similarly, expressing grave concern that the illicit transfer, accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons continued to cause significant loss of life around the world, senior ministers in the Security Council reminded governments at the meeting of their obligation to comply fully and effectively with Council-mandated arms embargoes.
The UN resolution also reminded states to take measures against any activity that was in violation of such embargoes, including by cooperating with all relevant United Nations entities; making available to sanctions committees all pertinent information on alleged violations; and acting on credible information to prevent the supply, sale, transfer or export of small arms and light weapons in contravention of UN resolutions. Both Turkey and Nigeria have a responsibility to make the world more peaceful and prosperous, and one should not be seen as antagonizing the other, especially against the background of strategic trade and bilateral relations between the two countries.