In recent times, the rate of gun crimes in Nigeria has increased drastically, thanks to a porous boarder that has allowed Nigerian streets and cities to become flooded with guns of different makes and qualities, one fears a war looms.
Anthony Cardinal Okogie is Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos and in this piece he x-rays the troubling development of guns making their way illegally into Nigeria.
It was reported, a few days ago, in almost all national dailies, that the Nigeria Customs Service seized 49 boxes containing 661 pump action rifles unlawfully imported into Nigeria.
The rifles were said to have been concealed in a container of steel products and other merchandise.
Three suspects were said to have been arrested.
According to retired Colonel Hameed Ali, the Comptroller of Customs, the arms were cleared at the port with the assistance of two customs officers who have since been apprehended and are now being investigated.
First, who are those behind unlawful importation of arms into Nigeria and what are their intentions?
Unlawful importation of arms: At a press conference, in which Colonel Ali triumphantly reported the arrest of three suspects, he also informed the Nigerian public that a team of customs officers on intelligence patrol had, on Sunday, January 22, 2017, along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos, intercepted a truck with registration number he gave as BDG 265 XG, purportedly conveying the arms in a container whose number he gave as PONU/825914/3.
Such news would have been sweet in the ears but for the fact that nothing was said of the owner of the truck and nothing was said of the owner of the container.
That raises further questions: in whose name was that truck registered and in whose name was the container registered?
Are they registered in the same name? Have their owners been investigated?
When shall they and their foot soldiers appear in court? Not to raise these and related questions, and not to address them, will leave us where we have always been, that is, a place where a criminal act is committed but there is neither trial nor conviction nor sanction, a country where criminals are phantoms, a strange land where there are crimes but no criminals.
That is why the triumphant account of the Comptroller of Customs comes close to another episode playing to the gallery. But there is another issue to be raised, and that is, whatever happened to intelligence in this country?
Newspapers reported that the Comptroller of Customs informed Nigerians that impounding the truck containing the unlawfully imported arms and the apprehension of three men suspected to be involved in the crime of unlawful importation was the achievement of a “roving team of the NCS’ federal operations unit, while on intelligence patrol”.
But on closer scrutiny, this advertisement of prowess is in fact an advertisement of colossal but recurring failure of intelligence.
A dictum has it that prevention is better than cure
Intelligence is crime prevention. Nigeria’s security agencies—the Customs in this case, the Police, the Army, to mentioned but these—have repeatedly demonstrated their ineptitude when it comes to preventing acts that are inimical to security.
The Police arrives at the scene of a crime after the crime and after the departure of the perpetrators.
The Directorate of State Security neither locates nor arrests makers and users of Improvised Explosive Devices before they strike.
The Police and the Army were only deployed to Southern Kaduna after massacre of Nigerian citizens.
Nigerian Customs officers fail to do their work at the ports only to mount roadblocks on highways at spots where stopping your vehicle would constitute a danger to other road users.