United Nations wades into illegal arms importation to Nigeria by Iran

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Seized Arms at the ports
Seized Arms at the ports

The United Nations, UN, is sending a six-man team to Nigeria to inspect the arms shipped in 13 containers from Iran and intercepted last month in Apapa port, Lagos.

This followed a formal complaint lodged before the United Nations by the Federal Government.

A source, who pleaded anonymity said, yesterday, that the UN team would also meet with top government officials to deliberate on the issue.

It will be recalled that four persons, including one Iranian, were arrested and charged to court over the seized weapons.

The weapons include assorted calibers of mortars and 107 mm rockets, designed to attack static targets and used by armies to support infantry units. They also include shells for 23 mm anti-aircraft guns.

In the heat of the row between Nigeria and Iran over the arms shipment, Iran had replaced her ambassador to Nigeria, Hussein Abdullahi, who said there was no clear evidence linking his country to the shipment.

Artillery rockets

Nigeria said the artillery rockets and other weapons, found at a Lagos port in October in shipping containers labelled as building supplies, originated from Iran and might have been destined for Nigerian politicians intending violence if they lose in 2011 elections.

Nigeria also said it would take action against Iran if investigations showed it violated international law and U.N. sanctions.

An international shipping company based in France, CMA CGM, said it had picked up the containers in which the weapons were hidden in the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The shipment stopped in Mumbai, India, before heading to Lagos.

It was gathered that the shipper sought to have the containers reloaded and sent to Gambia, while Nigeria’s intelligence agency said it had been monitoring the shipment, before it arrived in the country.

It also said the shipment’s destination was Nigeria, and “any argument that the cargo came into the country by mistake is false.”

Sensitive nuclear programme

Nigeria then threatened to report Iran to the UN Security Council if the arms shipment violated sanctions over its sensitive nuclear programme. Foreign Minister, Odein Ajumogobia, said Iranian officials confirmed the consignment originated in Iran.

During his visit, Iranian Foreign Affairs, Minister Mottaki, cleared the way for Nigerian security officials to interview one of two Iranians who Nigeria said organized the shipment, Ajumogobia said. The two Iranians, according to Nigeria took refuge in the Iranian Embassy.

Diplomatic and security sources outside Iran said the intended destination of the weapons had not been clarified yet, but they added that investigations have focused on two Iranians believed to be senior members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

A Security Council resolution bans Iran  from “supplying, selling or transferring directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals … any arms or related material”. Nigerian security agents questioned one of the two Iranian men involved in the arms shipment but could not meet the second because he had diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic sources outside Iran said the two are believed to be members of al_Quds, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards that specialises in foreign operations on behalf of Iran, French-based shipping group CMA CGM said the containers carrying the arms shipment, which was labelled as building materials, had been loaded in Iran by a local trader.

Source: Vanguard