UNCERTAINTY OVER DESTINATION OF DANGEROUS CARGO

• Sources Say Cargo Is Bound For Gambia
• Govt Says Its A Decoy

Even as investigations are still on-going to unravel the identities of importers of the 13 container load of sophisticated arms and ammunitions that were intercepted last week in Apapa port, there is yet no agreement as to who imported the prohibited cargo, its destination as well as the motive behind it. 

Official and unofficial sources are yet to proffer answers to the mirage of questions that have been thrown up since the ship MV CMA-CGM Everest dumped the cargoes on Nigerian shores.

Sources in both Abuja and Lagos however told Shipping Position Weekly that the importers actually wanted to trans-ship the arms unto a West Coast vessel enroute Gambia as a transit cargo aboard a smaller West coast ship which sources have identified as MV Minna.

This has also further created confusion in the investigation as all sources confirm that certainly there were some ambiguities in the manner in which the ship or its consignment  came into Nigeria.

 For instance, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Lieutenant General Owei Azazi (retd), after inspecting the seized arms and ammunition, said that it was too early to draw conclusions on where the weapons originated from and their destination.
He said: “At this point, the only thing we can say is that we have some armament we discovered at the port by the security agencies. We don’t want to make any conclusions about where they are going or where they are coming from.
“We need a lot of verifications and at the end of the day, Nigerians will know this is what it is all about. Let’s not jump to conclusion. We will find them and do whatever is required to make sure that everybody is protected.
“If weapons were passing through unchecked, you will probably find out that these ones would also have passed through; I mean they have a very good procedure at the port and that is why they ensured that this arms vessel did not go unchecked.”
However, the immediate reaction of the  Comptroller–General, Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi Inde,  create further confusion as he confirmed that there were some ambiguities in the documentation pertaining to the consignment.
Dikko, in a statement issued on his behalf by the Service’s public relations officer, Mr Wale Adeniyi that the exporter and importer of the arms and ammunition had no fixed addresses.
“This particular importation had no form ‘M’ and Risk Assessment Report. The importer and exporter had no addresses on the system, and we have reasons to believe that the importer’s name in the import documents is fictitious,” he said.
The statement further created more anxiety that the vessel first sailed into Nigeria from India on July 10 and sailed out on July 15, 2010.But fresh facts revealed that on its second voyage into Nigeria, her 13 containers were brought up for examination in the first week of October, before the lid was blown on the controversial import.
But a highly placed source at the Nigeria Ports Authourity (NPA) told Shipping Position Weekly  last week that there are facts to link the west coast vessel  MV Minna and the destination Gambia to the deadly cargo. 
The ill-fated MV Everest, a container carrier is registered in the Marshall Islands, is chartered by CMA-CGM, a shipping company based in France.
Meanwhile, CMA-CGM said last week in its first official reaction to the development that the containers holding the weapons were owned by the firm that shipped them, even as it added that the manifest for the weapons described the shipment as “packages of glasswool and pallets of stone.”
Affirming its innocence , the company said that the containers “were supplied, loaded and sealed by the shipper, delivered to the port of loading for transportation and remained sealed during the whole transportation process, The seals were fully intact upon discharge in Nigeria.”
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