The discovery was made barely two weeks after a consignment of electronic equipment suspected to contain toxic materials was seized at the same port. The ship that brought in the consignment, however, disappeared from the port.
Almost four weeks ago, twin car bomb blasts killed 16 people and injured 66 others in Abuja on October 1.
An intelligence source told THE PUNCH that senior security officials swooped on the port, based on information that a suspicious cargo had been brought into the country from Iran.
The source said top officials from the Police, the State Security Service, the Directorate of Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence participated in the operation.
It was gathered that the clearing agent had raised suspicion when he allegedly offered to “pay any amount” to get the containers transferred from AP Moller Terminal to an off-dock terminal.
The agent reportedly pleaded for the containers to be screened outside the ports.
But his attempts failed, as information was passed to the relevant quarters on his suspicious actions. It was at this juncture that security agents were called in to search the containers. The unidentified importers of the consignment were said to have described its contents as building materials.
It was gathered that when the first container was opened, the security agents found various sizes of grenades, rocket launchers, bombs, assault rifles and heavy machine guns hidden in 24 crates of building tiles.
However, the source said, “We cannot quantify the contents yet. All we know for now is that they are concealed in tiles.”
The SSS Assistant Director, Public Relations, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, confirmed the seizure to our correspondent on the telephone, saying the weapons were concealed among crates of floor tiles.
“On opening the first container, operatives discovered rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives,” she said.
She, however, declined to provide the identity of the vessel that brought in the containers and its final destination. Ogar confirmed that the containers’ manifest indicated they contained building materials.
She said security agents would search the containers through the night.
Ogar said security agents got information after the October 1 twin bomb blasts in Abuja that “arms were being brought into the country.”
When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said, “As I speak with you, the first container is still being examined. We understand they are 13 in number. The contents of the first showed it had mortals, bullets and such related items.”
Attempt to obtain a reaction from the First Secretary, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Sadeghazadeh, on Tuesday night failed as he did not answer calls to his phone. He did not also respond to an SMS.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the blasts that cast a slur on Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary celebration.
MEND leader, Mr. Henry Okar, is facing trial in a Johannesburg Magistrate court in South Africa, for allegedly being the mastermind of the blasts.
His brother, Charles and five others are also being prosecuted in Abuja for their alleged roles in the incident.
Most kidnap cases, oil platform seizures and disruptions in the Niger Delta are known to have been carried out by the group whose sources of arms and ammunition have largely remained unknown.
The National Task Force Combating Illegal Importation of Goods, Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons had on October 18, impounded a lorry load of arms and ammunition in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The lorry was reportedly parked inside a compound in the city. But with the help of the police, the driver of the vehicle and the suspected importer were arrested.
It is believed that arms-build up was fuelling the violence in different parts of the country this year.
On January 17, clashes between Christians and Moslems in Jos, Plateau State, left at least 26 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands displaced.
In the same Jos, attackers wielding machetes and other dangerous weapons killed hundreds of people on March 7. A Plateau State official reportedly said the death toll could be more than 500, but police sources put it at 55.
In Warri, Delta State, two car bombs exploded some 200 metres away from the state Government House Annex, venue of a two-day post amnesty dialogue on March 15.
Similarly, there was a car bomb explosion along INEC Road in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital on May 2. The bomb exploded few metres away from a hotel belonging to the then deputy governor of the state, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi.
Also, gunmen men in four speedboats attacked Ebebi’s home with improvised explosives, killing a private security guard on July 23.
On September 7, suspected members of an Islamic sect, Boko Haram, set the Bauchi Central Prison ablaze and freed members of the sect who were jailed in connection with the 2009 violence that rocked the state and some other states in the northern parts of the country.
Source: Punch Newspapers – www.punchontheweb.com