Illegal firearms importers change lawyers, opt for plea bargain

Two out of the five men being prosecuted by the Federal Government for unlawful importation of 661 pump - action rifles into the country have indicated their intention to enter into plea bargain with the prosecution.
The defendants – Mahmud Hassan , Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo , Matthew Okoye, said to be at large , and Salihu Danjuma – had been arraigned by the Attorney General of the Federation on June 14 before the Federal High Court in Lagos .
They had all pleaded not guilty to the eight charges pressed against them , while the trial judge , Justice Ayokunle Faji, refused their bail applications in view of the gravity of the charges levelled against them .
The matter was subsequently adjourned till September 25 for trial .
However , at the resumed proceedings on Monday, the second and third defendants, Oscar Okafor and Donatus Achinulo , respectively , who had changed their lawyers , indicated their intention to change their plea from not guilty to guilty.
The application was made orally on behalf of Okafor by Mr . Rotimi Jacobs (SAN ), his new lawyer , and on behalf of Achinulo by Mr . Paul Ananaba (SAN ).
However , the judge directed the defendants to notify the AGF of their intention .
The matter was subsequently adjourned till September 26 .
In the charges , the AGF said the accused persons brought 661 pump - action rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos , using a 40-feet container , which they falsely claimed contained steel doors .
To facilitate the illegal importation , the accused persons allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre - Arrival Assessment Report.
According to the prosecution, in order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused persons allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9 , 2017 , falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China .
In the forged bill of lading , they allegedly filled “ steel door ” as the content of the container instead of rifles .
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N 400, 000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40- feet container with number PONU 825914/ 3 . ”
The prosecution also alleged that the first accused person , Hassan , corruptly gave N 1 m to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials .
In the last count , the Federal Government alleged that the defendants had between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double - barreled shotguns, pump - action rifles and single - barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos .
The eight counts pressed against them border on conspiracy , importation of prohibited firearms , forgery , uttering of forged documents , and bribery .
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 1 (2) (c ), 1 (14 ) (a ) (i ) and 3 (6 ) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17 , Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014