The Borno State police command on Friday paraded a 28-year old man arrested while trying to transport a large cache of ammunition out of Maiduguri, the state capital.
The suspect, Clement Asuk, said he was helping to deliver the ammunition to a community in Cross River State, which he said is currently at war with fighters of the separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The police said the suspect was arrested at a popular Maiduguri motor park as he was about to exit the town with a heavy suitcase filled with high calibre bullets, including 126 anti-aircraft bullets.
It was the biggest interception of illegal military weapons of ballistic capability ever recorded in the history of the decade-old Boko Haram insurgency, police said.
The Nigeria Police and the military had in the past arrested and court-martialled soldiers involved in stealing and selling weapons and ammunition to criminals.
Mr Asuk described himself as a Benue State-based businessman and graduate of Maritime Engineering.
Acting on credible intelligence, the Borno state police Rapid Response Squad stormed the Kano Motor Park on time to prevent Mr Asuk who had already boarded one of the Luxurious buses heading for Southern Nigeria, from leaving with the ammunition.
The Borno Commissioner of Police, Abdul Umar, said upon searching him, it was discovered that Mr Asuk had in his baggage a mini armoury capable of executing a small scale war.
According to the commissioner, the suspect was found with 126 anti-aircraft munitions, 222 of 7.62mm of life ammunition, 517 of 7.62mm by 51 life ammunition, 7.62mm by 39 life ammunition, two empty magazines of Ak47, four rocket propelled grenades (RPG), one hand grenade, and one anti aircraft ammunition belt.
The suspect, according to the police, confessed that he was on errand for a soldier serving in Operation Hadin Kai and one other civilian who he described as a notable figure in his community in Obubra local government area of Cross River State.
PREMIUM TIMES recently reported communal clashes that claimed eight lives around Obubra, even though it was not linked with IPOB hostilities.
Mr Asuk, who was paraded alongside 25 other suspects, said those who hired him for the weapon transportation trip wanted to use the consignment to arm themselves against harassment from IPOB fighters of Southeast Nigeria.
He said his community in Obubra local government shares boundaries with communities in Ebonyi State where IPOB fighters had been pushing to force them into their war with the Nigerian state, triggering violent clashes from time to time.
The suspect was also found wearing local charms, possibly worn with the belief it would help him to escape being noticed while transporting the ammunition.
He said he took delivery of the lethal consignment a day after he arrived in Maiduguri.
According to him, a soldier picked him up around the central business area of Maiduguri, known as the Monday market, and led him to where he was handed the baggage of ammunition.
Mr Asuk told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview that his uncle, Joshua Akum, an engineer based in Chad, came to Maiduguri and linked him up with a soldier, Lance Corporal Samuel, who handed him the ammunition.
“There had been continued communal clash between a community in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River State and a boundary community in Ebonyi State where the IPOB members had continued to kill our people,” he said.
“So my uncle called me on the phone to come down to Maiduguri where I will be given ammunition to take back to the community in Cross River to defend our people.
“My uncle and the soldier gave me the ammunition and took me to a motor park in a tricycle before I was arrested by the Police. I was meant to take the ammunition to Makurdi before I will do a waybill to Cross River,” the suspect said.
The police commissioner said while the suspect is being kept in custody, an investigation team has been raised to fish out the soldier and the Chad-based accomplice.
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