An illegal shipment of rocket launchers and heavy mortars intercepted in Nigeria first arrived in the country in July on a ship which sailed from India, the Nigerian customs service said.
Nigeria’s secret service intercepted 13 containers in the port of Lagos this week, some of which were found to contain rocket launchers, grenades, explosives and ammunition.
The seizure raised concern about national security in Africa’s most populous nation, which is preparing for elections expected to be held next April and which was shaken by car bombings in the capital Abuja almost four weeks ago, Reuters reports.
Customs Director Dikko Abdullahi said the containers were discharged from the vessel MV CMA-CGM Everest, which docked in Lagos on July 10 and sailed out again five days later.
The ship’s manifest listed the contents as building materials and its last port of call before Lagos was Jawaharlal Nehru port, south of Mumbai, the customs service said.
It did not say that the vessel’s journey had begun in India or that the containers were loaded there.
“Our system is configured to block suspicious importations of this nature,” Abdullahi said in a statement.
“The importer and exporter had no address on the system and we have reason to believe that the importer’s name given in the import documents is fictitious,” he said.
It is not unusual for shipments to take several months to pass through customs in Lagos, one of West Africa’s busiest ports.
The arms seizure follows car bombings on October 1 which killed at least 10 people near an independence day parade in the capital Abuja. The security services have not publicly linked the two events.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in the oil-producing south, claimed the October 1 attacks and has threatened further strikes, but the State Security Service says the main suspects have been caught.
There is also insecurity in the remote northeast, where a radical Islamist sect has firebombed police stations and shot local officials in recent weeks, though security experts say the attacks are opportunistic and disorganised.
The weapons shown to journalists in Lagos on Wednesday included 107mm mortars, not known to have been used by Nigerian militant groups.
The long-range mortars are designed to attack static targets such as buildings, and are used by armies to support infantry units. They have also been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan, security experts say.