Nigerian activists have demanded the investigation and prosecution of Ibikunle Amosun for smuggling deadly arms and ammunition into Nigeria.
Their request followed a PREMIUM TIMES report on Monday which exposed as false Mr Amosun’s claim that he had requisite approvals to bring in the weapons.
Mr Amosun, a serving senator and former governor of Ogun State, had admitted in June that he imported 1,000 AK-47 rifles, two million bullets, 13 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and other hardware for security efforts in his state in 2012.
While reacting to a PREMIUM TIMES’ story about how he hurriedly handed over the illegal arms to the police a day before his tenure expired on May 28, Mr Amosun said he had approvals from President Goodluck Jonathan for import waivers and end-user certificate from the Office of the National Security Adviser.
But following extensive investigation of his claim, PREMIUM TIMES discovered that Mr Amosun only had approval to import 13 APCs to support the police in 2012.
There was no end-user certificate or import waiver issued to Mr Amosun to import 1,000 AK-47 rifles and two million bullets.
It is a federal crime for any individual or organisation to import AK-47 and its ammunition into Nigeria without an end-user certificate from the ONSA.
The fresh evidence that exposed Mr Amosun’s illegality has continued to generate stern reactions from Nigerians. Activists who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday said it should not be allowed to stand, with some warning that it could serve as a major test for security agencies.
“He has committed an illegality and his status should not matter at all in this case,” Yomi Ogunsanya, a social commentator, told PREMIUM TIMES. “That is if the government is serious at all about insecurity.”
Mr Ogunsanya said it was unfortunate that security agencies are still reluctant to move after Mr Amosun, even when a lot more could be uncovered on the extent of his arms stockpile.
“You would expect that the security agencies will be in a hurry to take him into custody to uncover a lot more than has been reported,” Mr Ogunsanya said. “We do not even know the quantity he imported, we only know he admitted to bringing in 1,000 AK-47 guns and a few million bullets.”
“But even what he has admitted to importing, he has no permit and he should be arrested because he no longer enjoys immunity from prosecution as he did when he was governor for eight years,” he added.
Another activist, Lanre Suraj, told PREMIUM TIMES he was infuriated by the failure of security agencies to do anything to Mr Amosun, which consequently leaves the public with the impression that the man is above the law.
Mr Suraj recalled in 2015 when the State Security Service filed criminal charges against the former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for keeping about five unlicensed firearms at home.
“Based on the evidence that PREMIUM TIMES published, Mr Amosun should not be protected from the wrath of the law,” Mr Suraj said.
Kennedy Angbo, a public affairs analyst and lawyer, said Mr Amosun undermined national security and should not be allowed to get away with it.
“To bring the weapons that Mr Amosun admitted he brought into Nigeria, you need NSA approval,” Mr Angbo said. “If the NSA did not expressly give approval, then it is illegal and against national security.”
Mr Angbo said the security agencies have already been exposed as incompetent for failing to detect Mr Amosun’s arms before and after he brought them in.
The arms were stockpiled by Mr Amosun in Abeokuta for several years, handling them over to the police only on May 28, a day before he was due to leave office. The extent to which the politicians used the weapons before handing them over remained unclear.
“It is even an indictment on the NSA and other agencies that a politician was able to import such a large cache of arms without being detected,” Mr Angbo said.
“Mr Amosun’s scandal as exposed by PREMIUM TIMES could serve as a major test for the fairness and independence of law enforcement agencies,” Mr Angbo added. “Authorities should be ruthless in investigating and prosecuting this matter because he is no longer a governor with immunity from prosecution.”
Mr Amosun has continued to decline requests for comments. For nearly three weeks, PREMIUM TIMES has been calling him, sending text messages and letters to his office seeking comments, but he has yet to give a response.
But he has previously justified his importation of arms as a necessary measure he took to combat crime in Ogun State in the early years of his administration. Frequent armed robbery attacks gripped Ijebu-Ode, Shagamu, Sango-Ota and other major settlements in the state at the time, forcing several banks to close their branches there.
Armed robberies reduced significantly in Mr Amosun’s first term following deployment of the APCs, but other violent crimes like political thuggery, kidnapping and cross-border smuggling lingered.