A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has 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, forgery, and bribery.
The presiding Judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji, on Friday, also convicted and sentenced one Oskar Okafor and Donatus Achinulo to jail.
The judge while delivering judgment in a charge brought against the convicts on count two of the offence of illegal importation of 661 Pump Action rifles into the country, sentenced them to eight years imprisonment each on the said count.
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.
Justice Faji 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.
He also ordered that the company, Hassan Trading Limited, which was used as a vehicle to smuggle, be closed and assets forfeited to FG.
While delivering the judgement, Justice Faji, said the offence committed by the convicts touches on national security, noting that although the relevant provisions of the law for the offence for which they were charged and convicted prescribed life imprisonment, the court, however, has discretion.
The judge said he would refrain from giving a maximum punishment, but the convicts must be made examples to serve as a deterrent for other would-be criminals.
Meanwhile, in the charge, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the accused imported the rifles in a 40-feet container from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos and had falsely claimed it was steel doors.
The convicts were also alleged to have forged several documents, including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report to facilitate the smuggling of the said rifles.
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 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 trial has lasted for almost four years with the first prosecutor, Mr Julius Ajakaye, and one of the defence counsel, Adamu Ibrahim, passing on.
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