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Monday, 17 June 2013 00:00
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Our mandate was to discontinue arm smuggling into the country –– Taskforce Chairman

Nigeria has been going through a challenging time, especially in the aspect of security, insecurity is believed to have mostly been caused by the influx of arms and ammunitions which has ended up in the wrong place and at the wrong hands.

So, to check further influx of arms and ammunition in the country, the Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN) established a taskforce to checkmate its members and put to check, smuggling of arms and ammunition into the country.

In an exclusive interview with BABALOLA YUSUF ABIOLA, the Lagos state Director of National taskforce  on the importation of small arms and ammunition (RTD) col. Friday Imoko, explains what the taskforce has achieved so far and the synergy between the taskforce and other security agencies to rid the country of illegal arms and ammunitions. Excerpt:

What is national task force all about and what does it set out to achieve
As the name implies National task force, it was set by Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN) to check the influx of arms and ammunition and other explosives from coming into the country, just as we said most of this things do find themselves into the country by mistake, somebody have to carry it in so we can likened it to how goods are being brought into the country so the goods are being brought into the country through importation. Definitely most of these arms are being imported.

 We can all see the rate of insecurity in the country a lot of arms has found itself into the country and has been in the wrong hands you can see that there is a lot of discovery by security agencies of arms being discovered in various bunkers and so on.

The questions we need to ask ourselves is how do this things came into the country, so because importers are being accused because they are in charge of importing and since they are business men nothing goes for nothing and definitely  some of them might have hands in bringing some of these arms and ammunition into the country so in other to absolve ourselves from any blame or involvement we have to set up  the taskforce to checkmate our members to  find out if there is any importer responsible for illegal importation of arms.

What cooperation is between you and other security agencies?
There are serious synergy between the national taskforce and security agencies in the country, we are not operating alone, the national task force is not armed therefore we cannot operate and we cannot arrest someone that is armed so we do not operate alone.
We have engaged the support of the Nigeria police so on the meantime we are working with the Nigeria police, the Lagos state command supports us with their men and we collaborate with them and other security agencies even the State Security Service are aware of our functions and in most cases they render their support especially when we have an intelligence report which we most of the time share with them.

What is the success the taskforce has made in recent time?
we have been on the news for a long time for the rate of arrest we made, we have made tremendous achievement, we have arrested quite a number of vehicles carrying arms and ammunition and the exposure of a container full of arms at the port was first broken by the national taskforce even before other law enforcement agencies know about it.
 In 2010 there was an arrest of a trailer loaded with ammunition going to Makurdi it was intercepted and was handed to Nigeria police.

Some of the achievement of the taskforce goes thus: The taskforce on the 26th October 2010 with the aid of other security agency intercepted 13 containers loaded with arms and explosive and a CDRA weapon of terror from Iran several months after it was handled by the customs and has been in the port.

In October 2010, the taskforce went to seize a shipment suspected to be landing with illegal arms and ammunition of terror routed from ivory coast and headed to Onne port in Port Harcourt.

Early January 2011, a lorry full of arms and ammunition was intercepted at Nnsuka, the arms were imported by some business men in Benue state and cleared by some Customs officers this was also handed over to the commissioner of police in Enugu state.
Taskforce has invested so much on intelligent gathering and has reached out to the Nigeria police; armed forces and Nigeria state security service for operations and shared evidence.

How helpful is Nigerian government to make this great task successful
As I will always say that this taskforce was inaugurated by the federal ministry of finance and since then you know the government bureaucracy so the govern will wait for you as an organ seeking for help to list out whatever you want before they can park it up to the presidency for approval we have done this and we are waiting for approval.

 Also, we have made a number of forwarded our budget to the Federal Government for support very soon there will be a grants made available to the National taskforce
You made mention of a container loaded with arms, and recently the Iranian and the Nigerian who imported the container were jailed, what are you doing to checkmate your members from importing arms.

The tasks force law is not operating in isolation of the federal republic of Nigeria law so definitely in IMAN we do not have any other law. So, if you are caught as our member we hand you over to the police for prosecution because we do not prosecute and the law of the land is not an exception to you. After, thorough investigation we hand you over to the police for further action of prosecution, so we do not have  any hand in prosecution so we hand erring members to state security or the Nigerian police .

What punishment do you give out to members caught doing this shameful act
If you are caught with illegal importation of arms, we hand you over to the police and we immediately ban you from being a member of the organization and once you are convicted you cease to be a member of IMAN. Furthermore, we delist you from our register because you want to tarnish the image of the association

What are the levels of awareness given to members of importers association on arms smuggling?
National taskforce did not just emerge, it was the importers association that set it up definitely when an association set up a taskforce to checkmate itself then I think every member of the association should be aware of what is happening so we  do not need to send you to any special training for you to know what we are doing so every members is aware that a task force set  up to clean itself.

Challenges faced so far in this course of doing their task?
The challenges is like the one faced by every other combat force in the world, definitely when you are chasing a smuggler your life is at risk, you can either be killed or otherwise so definitely there is danger but the challenges we are having is that we need a lot of support from the government and also we train our men to be able to face challenges because to identify , search an explosive is a very dangerous task.

 If you are not train in the search for things like this it might get exploded in the process of searching and the person is gone so we are up to the task so I think with the training we are giving to our men and with help from other security agency the task is what we can control.
The most challenging moment as the Lagos state taskforce chairman?
The most challenging moment is that we are suffering in the aspect of getting necessary logistics for the operations, that is the immediate challenges other than this the police are supporting us, when we set out, the customs service are challenging us but now they know our relevance to get rid of the country of illegal arms and ammunitions.
Now, they are supporting us, everyone are cooperating with us and we are initiating our programe and what we set out to achieve with other sisters associations.

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