Security agents have arrested three suspected rice smugglers with 73 locally-made guns and 891 ammunition concealed inside bags of rice in Kebbi State.
The weapons and the smugglers were intercepted along the Yauri-Zamare Waterside area of Kebbi State.
There is, however, controversy on the agency responsible for the arrest of the suspects and the weapons.
While the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said its officials made the arrest, the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) said its men apprehended the smugglers and handed them to Customs.
The NCS spokesman, Deputy Controller Joseph Attah, said officers under the command of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone B, headed by Controller Hamisu Albashir, acted on intelligent information to make the seizure and arrest.
Attah said the weapons loaded in sacks were concealed in a truck loaded with local rice.
The spokesman added that upon careful examination, the bags were found to contain 73 locally-manufactured guns and 891 cartridges.
He said: “Three were immediately arrested and are being detained while preliminary investigation is ongoing.” Attah quoted the Controller of FOU, Zone B, Albashir, as saying that the feat was a signal to all those who might be planning to bring harmful items into the country through the zone, to prepare for the vigilance of his officers.
He called on members of the public, especially border community dwellers to provide credible information for effective border security. In 2017, the NCS intercepted 1,100 pump action guns imported from Turkey at the Tin Can Island Port.
The contraband were discovered in a 20 feet container marked GESU25255208 and was concealed in water closet and sanitary wares.
The Customs Comptroller General, Hammed Ali, said in Lagos that the container was not among those listed for examination, noting that the container was ferried to the country by MV Bella Shuttle.
He listed the contraband to include 600 pieces of jojef magnum black pump rifles, jojef magnum silver pump action rifles, jojef magnum plastic single-barrelled hunting pump action rifles.
Meanwhile, the Kebbi State Commandant of VGN, Alhaji Sanusi Ibrahim Gazah, said his men attached to Zamare Waterside area in Yauri Local Government arrested two suspects for allegedly smuggling the 73 locally-guns and 450 ammunition into the state. Gazah, who addressed journalists in Birnin-Kebbi yesterday, said the VGN later handed over the suspects and weapons to the NCS.
He explained that the seized weapons were concealed inside bags of paddy rice. Gazah disclosed that his officers were suspicious so they subjected the vehicle to a thorough inspection. He said: “My men intercepted one Canter loaded with bags of paddy rice.
The weapons were concealed inside the loads in the vehicle. When they arrested the two suspects and impounded the Canter truck, they invited Customs and police officers who were around.
They took the seized vehicle to Customs office where they discovered 73 guns and 450 weapons (cartridges) inside those bags of rice.
“My men arrested two suspects while two other suspects are at large. Both the two suspects and the weapons have been handed over to the Customs.”
Earlier, the Commander of VGN at Zamare Waterside, Alhaji Zakari Zamare, told journalists in Yauri yesterday that the group intercepted the vehicle after it was transported by ferry boat from the River Niger in Zamare to upland in the area.