Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos will on November 21 determine whether or not to grant bail to two businessmen, Ayogu Great James and Ifeuwa Moses Christ, accused of illegally and unlawfully importing 1,570 pump action rifles into Nigeria, through the Apapa Seaport, Lagos.
The two men alongside a limited liability company, Great James Oil and Gas Limited, were arraigned before the court by the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) on allegations of conspiracy, illegal and unlawful importation of firearms, uttering of Customs’ forms, forgery and false declaration.
The prosecutors, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, told the court during their arraignment that the offences are contrary to and punishable under Section 3(6), 1(14)(a), 1(14)(a)(i), 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
While moving his client bail application yesterday, Mahmud Mogaji (SAN) urged the court to admit them to bail in the most liberal terms, as the prosecution has not been able to contradict all the disposition of their affidavits.
Mogaji also argued that the only prosecution’s contention to their clients’ affidavits was an Appeal Court’s decision which stated that once a case is of national security, no bail should be granted.
The lawyer while urging the court to admit their clients to bail also stated that there is no allegation that the defendants will interfere with the witnesses or repeat the offences.
They therefore urged the court to discountenance the prosecutors’ counter-affidavits to their clients’ bail application and admit them to bail in the most liberal terms.
Responding to the defendants’ bail applications, the prosecutor, Ajakaiye, urged the court to dismiss the bail applications on the ground of national security.
Ajakaiye who cited two Federal High Court decisions and an Appeal Court’s decision, said similar bail applications on related offences, were dismissed on the ground of national security.
Ajakaiye particularly told the court that the third defendant, Ifeuwa Christ, the alleged shipper of the illegal firearms, was elusive for more than a year and that he was arrested by the Customs and other security agencies.
Ajakaiye vehemently pleaded with the court to discountenance the bail applications and dismiss it accordingly.
Also during yesterday’s proceedings, the co-accused listed in the charge, Emeka Umeh Festus also known as Amankwa, was brought before the court for arraignment.
But the court ordered that he should be remanded in prison custody pending when the prosecution would consolidate the charge against all the accused persons.
The accused persons were alleged to have loaded the said 1,570 pump action rifles in two 1× 20 feet containers marked GESU 2555208 and CMAU 1878178.
During their arraignment, the prosecutor informed the court that the defendants and others now at large, in a bid to illegally and unlawfully bring in the weapons, altered and forged a bill of lading, issued in July 28, 2017, to read Guandong, China, instead of Istanbul, Turkey, which was written on the conveying container.
He also told the court that the accused also altered Form M (application for Import) and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), issued in August 28, 2017, with number MF 20170080364 and CN 20170768490/001, respectively, to read Guandong, China instead of Istanbul, Turkey, as country of origin.
The accused were also alleged to have altered a forged bill of lading numbered ISB0281398, issued in July 28, 2017, to read 230 packages of wash hand basin and W/C, as the content in the container used in shipping in the illegal firearms.