Court orders suspected illegal importers of arms to open defence
A Nigerian, Ali Jega and an Iranina, Azin Aghajani have been ordered by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to open their defence of the illegal importation of arms leveled against them by the Federal Government on Monday.
The accused were said to have been arrested in Lagos in July 2010 with a consignment of a container loaded with arms and ammunition, comprising bombs, grenades and rockets imported from Iran.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in a ruling, ordered them to open their defence after he struck out their application for a no-case submission.
Through their lawyers — Chris Uche (SAN) and M. Yawuri — Aghajani, Jega had filed a no-case submission after the prosecution closed its case with nine witnesses.
They had insisted in their application that the evidence led by the prosecution failed to prove the alleged crime against them.
Okeke said though, the court could not at that stage give full details of the case, there was “copious” evidence, according to the testimonies of the third and fifth prosecution witnesses, linking the accused with the alleged crime.
He said there were “grey areas” which the accused need to clarify.
Okeke said, “Out of the nine witnesses, I wish to be single out the third and fifth prosecution witnesses who gave copious evidence linking the accused with the goods and it is a matter to be concluded at the trial.
“The prosecution has made out its case and the court will not take the risk of going into the full details of the case until the close of the case.
“The no case submission hereby fails.”
The prosecution, represented in court on Monday by Maduako Livingstone, had insisted that with the testimonies of its nine witnesses, prima facie case had been proved against the accused.
The third prosecution witness referred to by the judge was one Mohammed Umar, who in his testimony, said he was “a brother and friend” to the second accused person, Jega.
He had said Jega was the one who introduced him to the first accused person, Aghazani, informing him of the consignment that was being expected from Iran.
The fifth prosecution witness, Kingsley Nduka, was the clearing agent paid to clear the consignment.
In the four counts preferred against the accused, the Federal Government alleged that they “without licence imported into Nigeria a consignment of 13-by-20 feet containers loaded with firearms and ammunition prohibited from importation under section 18 of Firearms (Special Provision) Act.”
They were also said to have “recklessly” made a false declaration that the container was loaded with glass, wool and pellets of stones on the original bill of lading.
The matter was adjourned till November 19.