A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday sentenced an Iranian, Azim Aghajani, and his Nigerian accomplice, Ali Jega, to 17 years imprisonment each for illegal importation of firearms into the country in 2010.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke found the two guilty of four, out of the five counts preferred against them by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Aghajani and Jega were alleged to have illegally imported 13-by-20 feet container load of firearms and explosives into Nigeria from Iran on July 17, 2010 by falsely declaring on the Bill of Lading that the consignment contained construction materials.
The judge sentenced the two to five years for each of three counts and to two years for the fourth count, ruling that the sentences would run concurrently from February 1, 2011, when they were arraigned.
He also ordered that all the items seized from the accused be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge however discharged and acquitted Aghajani and Jega of the offence of “being in control” of the imported firearms.
“As for count 1, which has to do with importation of firearms into the country without licence, there is no doubt that the accused persons actually imported the consignment,” he said.
He discharged and acquitted them of the offence in the second count, saying having not paid the necessary custom fees, the accused “could not be said to have been in control of the consignment”.
“There is no evidence that the payment of the custom duty was made. If they had made any payment, I would have taken it that they were in constructive possession of the consignment,” he said.
He added, “It is not in doubt that the Bill of Lading which disclosed the consignment to have glass wool and pallets of stone actually contained arms and ammunitions.
“It is my view that the accused made a false declaration on the Bill of Lading they claimed contained glass wool and pallets of stones whereas it contained arms and ammunition.”
The judge also asked Aghajani’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), to liaise with the federal ministries of Justice and interior on his request that his client be allowed to serve his jail term in his home country.
The judge, who had given the accused persons and their lawyers the opportunity to plead for mercy, said their plea for mercy was “touching and moving” but that he had to follow the law.