A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Monday sentenced an Iranian, Azim Aghajani, and his Nigerian counterpart, Ali Jega, to 17 years imprisonment each over unlawful importation of firearms into Nigeria.
The accused had faced a five-count charge bordering on importation of 13 by 20 feet container loaded with firearms and explosives, and concealing the content of same.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in his judgment, held that it was not in doubt that the accused imported the containers loaded with firearms into the country.
He held that the prosecution led enough evidence to prove that the accused shipped the consignment into the country and it did not contain building materials for shipment to the Gambia as they (accused) claimed.
Mr. Okeke also held that the prosecution succeeded in tendering before the court, e-mail transactions between the accused.
“I sympathise with the second accused person on the role he played because he thought he was helping his friend. It is my view that the accused made false declaration on the content of the consignment.
“If the goods were truly construction materials as they claimed, they should have stated so in the bill of lading. There is no doubt that the accused persons and their collaborators deal in unlawful importation of arms.
“The accused are hereby convicted as charged and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment each on all charges. The sentence is to start running from February 1, 2011, when they were first arraigned,” the judge said.
Mr. Okeke also directed that the container loaded with firearms be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The prosecutor, Maduakor Livingstone, had told the court that the accused were apprehended by customs officers on July 17, 2010, for unlawful importation of the consignment.
He told the court that the accused also made a false declaration in their bill of lading, by claiming that the container contained ‘glass wool’, and pallet of stones, contrary to Section 161 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, 2004.
The offence is said to contravene the provisions of Sections 3, 14, 18, and 47 of the Firearms (special provisions) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The offence attracts a penalty of a term of not less than 10 years imprisonment.