A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday convicted and sentenced a retired Customs Officer, Mahmud Hassan and two others to 16 years imprisonment for conspiracy and unlawful importation of 661 pump-action rifles.
Others convicted by Justice Ayokunle Faji-led court are; Oskar Okafor; Donatus Achinulo and Mahmud’s company, Hassan Trades Limited.
Justice Faji, however, acquitted and discharged Abdulahi Danjuma of all the charges.
Justice Faji delivered the verdict after reading judgement for five hours in a trial that lasted almost four years in the course of which the first prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaye and one of the defence counsel, Adamu Ibrahim passed on.
On count one which was on conspiracy, Justice Faji found the first, second and third defendants guilty and also sentenced them to eight years imprisonment each.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the properties of the convicts to the Federal Government of Nigeria as provided for by the law under which they were charged.
The court also 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 the judgement, Justice Faji held that the offence committed by the convicts touches 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, but 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 example to serve as deterrent for 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.
The convicts were arraigned before the court for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country.
In the charge, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said the accused brought the rifles from Turkey through the Apapa Port 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 a number of 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 at Shanghai, China.
He said their intention was 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 (NCS) 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 shall run concurrently, the convicts were convicted on count one and two.