For six months and counting, the police and other security agencies across Nigeria have refused to go after Ibikunle Amosun for smuggling deadly and strictly controlled weapons.
But, when a Lagos man was accused of trading in small arms, all state resources were deployed to bring him to book.
On Wednesday, at the Nigerian commercial capital, police commissioner Hakeem Odumosu, announced a major victory for his officers after a criminal suspect was arrested while allegedly trying to sell two pistols, Daily Trust reported.
Mr Odumosu paraded Samuel Uche before reporters in Ikeja and quickly labelled him the “most wanted gunrunner,” even though there was no immediate evidence to suggest the 32-year-old was infamous in Lagos or even declared wanted by the police prior to his arrest.
The police said Mr Uche was about to sell the two pistols allegedly found in his possession for N250,000 when he was arrested by the special anti-robbery squad in Oshodi on January 3.
He had purportedly confessed to the crime in custody.
While the police’s primary task of combating crime cannot be limited to the magnitude of the offence, it appeared there are other considerations for determining which crime should be punished, especially where the profile of the offender is concerned.
Mr Uche was not the first to be arrested and prosecuted by the police for illegal arms possession. Other petty criminal suspects are regularly arrested and arraigned before judges, who often impose long sentences upon conviction.
In May 2019, three Nigerians were sentenced to a combined 120 years in prison, including 20 years each for illegal possession of firearms in Ibadan. The Oyo State High Court used the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act to convict the trio.
Since June 2019, PREMIUM TIMES has been reporting details of how Mr Amosun, a former governor and serving senator, violated federal laws by smuggling heavy weapons into Nigeria without requisite approvals.
Mr Amosun, a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, was exposed by this newspaper as importing 1,000 AK-47 assault rifles, two million bullets and other controlled equipment without permission.
He admitted 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. After being exposed for hurriedly handing over the illegal arms to the police a day before his tenure expired on May 28, 2019, 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 found that Mr Amosun only had approval to import 13 APCs to support the police in 2012.
All documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES showed there was no end-user certificate or import waiver issued to Mr Amosun to import 1,000 AK-47 rifles and two million bullets.
Moreover, the Buhari administration, through the budget office, confirmed Mr Amosun was never issued any approval to import the weapons, an official position that contradicted his claim.
It is a federal crime, under Robbery and Firearms Act, for any individual or organisation to import AK-47 or its ammunition into Nigeria without an end-user certificate from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
Yet, all federal agencies, especially the police, State Security Service and ONSA, have declined to take any visible steps to prosecute Mr Amosun.
PREMIUM TIMES‘ repeated enquiries to all the agencies were not answered.
Frank Mba and Peter Afunanya, spokespersons for the police and SSS, did not return repeated requests for comment.
While authorities fail to act, Mr Amosun has continued to influence public policy as a member of the Senate.