Illegal firearms: Suspects’ appearance in court surfers set back over #End SARS protest

The continued trial of defendants who were standing trial over illegal importation of firearms into the country, before Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Lagos Federal High Court, today, was hindered due to non production of the suspects, owing to ongoing end SARS protest.

The defendants in the alleged illegal firearms importation are: a Retired Custom Officer, Muhmud Hassan, his company, Hassan Muhmud Trading Company, Saliu Abudulahi Danjuma; Donatus Ezebunwa

The defendants were charge before the court on a nine-count charge of conspiracy, illegal importation of 661 pump action rifles; offering bribes to the government officials, forgery and altering of documents.

The offences according to the prosecutor, Mr. Julius Ajakaiye, a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, are contrary to  to and punishable under sections 3(6),1(14)(a)(I) 1(2) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. And section 98(1) (b) of the Criminal Code Act.

The prosecution has closed its case against the defendants, while they opted to file no case submissions.

In his ruling, Justice Faji dismissed all the defendants’ no case submissions, except that of Donatus Ezebunwa, who has been accordingly discharged and acquitted by the court, while others were ordered to open their defence on the charges against them. The decision which was also upheld by Appeal Court.

The first defendant, Mahmud Hassan had opened  and closed his defence on the charges, while the matter was adjourned till today, for his cross examination by the prosecution.

However, while counsel for both prosecution and defence were in court today, all the defendants were nowhere to be found. And upon enquiry from the prison officials who were in court, they responded they don’t want to take risk of being hijacked by the #end SARS protester.

The prison officials’ response was communicated to the court by the prosecutor and defendants’ counsel. And they consequently sought for adjournment, which was granted by the court.

The matter has been adjourned till Monday.

All the accused persons except Matthew Okoye, who is said to be at large, were first arraigned before the court on June 14, 2017, on offences. 

They had all pleaded not guilty to the charge, but the court while cited plethoras of authorities and concluded that ‘the charges against the defendants bothers on national security’, dismissed their bail applications and ordered that they be remanded in the custody of Nigerian Correctional Services.

During the trial of the charges, the prosecutor, Mr. Ajakaiye called nine witnesses, who told the court roles played in arresting the alleged arms smugglers, as well as tendered several exhibits, which were marked as exhibits ‘A to R’.

AGF had in a charge number FHC/L/190c/17, alleged that the all the accused persons conspired with one another to illegally import into Nigeria 661 Pump Action Rifles.

They were also alleged to have forged the documents which includes: two Bill of Lading, one reads ‘Shanghai China’, as Port of Loading, instead of ‘Istanbul’, and another one which reads: ‘Steel Doors’, as the contents of the container instead of Customs’ Form M, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) used in smuggling the the said 661 rifles Into the country.

In particular, the one of the Customs Officials, Mahmud Hassan, was alleged to corruptly offered the sum of N400, 000.00, to one Aliu Musa, the Examination Officer of the Federal Operation Unit of the Customs Service with an intent to prevent hundred percent search on a container marked PONU 825914/3, which was used in bringing into the country the said arms.

Mahmud Hassan was also alleged to have corruptly gave the sum of N1 million to Government officials at Apapa Port, through his colleague, Danjuma Abdulahi, in order to prevent the searching of the said container used in bringing in the 661 illegally imported Pump Action riffles.

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