Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Monday appealed to the Federal High Court in Lagos not to release a five-man gang who allegedly imported 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
Defence counsel, Yakubu Galadima, Godwin Okaka, Olumide Oyewole and Adamu Ibrahim, had brought bail applications for their clients, promising that if they were released on bail they would not abscond but make themselves available for trial.
Oyewole told the court that his client was ill and needed medical treatment, showing a medical report issued by the Isolo General Hospital.
But the prosecuting counsel from the office of the AGF, K.A. Fagbemi, while opposing the bail applications filed by the accused, told the court that it would not be healthy for them to be released into the society on bail.
Fagbemi, who noted that one of the five accused persons was still at large, argued further that it was not even healthy for the court to release the other four on bail as their lives might be at risk.
“He’s still out there. He could be a risk to their own lives. It’s one of the grounds that the defendants should not be granted bail for their own good,” Fagbemi said.
The accused – Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said be at large, and Salihu Danjuma – had been arraigned by the AGF on June 14 for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
They were arraigned on eight counts before Justice Ayokunle Faji, who ordered that they should be remanded in the prison custody after they had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
After entertaining arguments from the counsel, Justice Faji adjourned till July 6, 2017 for ruling.
In the charges, the AGF said the accused brought 661 pump-action rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
To facilitate the illegal importation, the accused allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.
According to the prosecution, in order to evade payment of customs duties, the accused allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
In the forged bill of lading, they allegedly filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”
The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1million to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by customs officials.
In the last count, the federal government alleged that the defendants had between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barreled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos.
The eight counts pressed against them border on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, uttering of forged documents, and bribery.