A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has sentenced a retired customs officer, Mahmud Hassan, and two others to 16 years imprisonment over conspiracy and unlawful importation of 661 pump-action rifles.
The two other persons convicted alongside Hassan are Oskar Okafor; Donatus Achinulo and Mahmud’s company, Hassan Trades Limited.
The presiding judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji, however, acquitted and discharged one other defendant, Abdulahi Danjuma, of all the charges.
On count one, which was on conspiracy, Justice Faji found the first, second and third defendants guilty and sentenced them to eight years imprisonment each.
The court, therefore, ordered the forfeiture of the properties of the convicts to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Also, the court ordered that the company, Hassan Trading Limited, used as a vehicle to smuggle the arms, be wound up and assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
Justice Faji, however, discharged and acquitted the fifth defendant.
While delivering judgment, the judge held that the offence committed by the convicts borders on the security of the country.
He added that although the relevant provisions of the law for the offence, which they were charged and convicted prescribed life imprisonment, he said the court exercises its discretion.
The trial judge said he would refrain from giving a maximum punishment but that the convicts must be made examples to serve as deterrent to other would-be criminals.
Justice Faji particularly frowned at the conduct of the second convict, a retired customs officer, saying that if the container was not intercepted and the guns fell into the hands of criminals in the society, the negative effect can only be imagined.
In the charge by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the accused brought the rifles from Turkey through the Apapa seaport in Lagos.
He added that the arms were imported in a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed to be steel doors.
The convicts were also alleged to have forged some documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report to facilitate the smuggling of the said rifles.
According to the prosecution, the defendants also forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued in Shanghai, China.
He said they intended to evade the payment of customs duty by filling “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400, 000, 00 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to avoid a “100 per cent search on the container with number PONU 825914/3.”
The prosecution also alleged that the first convict, Hassan, corruptly gave N1million to government officials at the Apapa port to prevent the search by customs officials.
They, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
The judge said the sentence will run concurrently.