Nigeria: Seized arms-loaded ship raises worry over possible tensions

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An illegal arms shipment containing grenades, explosives and mortars has been seized in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest shipping port. The importation of arms has raised concerns ahead of forthcoming national elections, and the increasing restiveness of yet-to-be-compensated former militants.

“After the October 1 bombs, we had information that arms were being brought into the country. State Security Service spokesperson agents had only gone through eight crates inside of one shipping container labeled as carrying Building Materials. Four crates contained floor tiles, while the other four crates contained military-grade armaments,” State Security Service spokesperson (SSS), Marilyn Ogar told reporters.

Ogar added that the crates and containers may also contain rocket launchers. She said agents would continue to search the containers through the night but she refused to identify the ship carrying the container, or its final destination.

According to analysts the seizure of a fully loaded armed ship embodies a troubling sign in a country where campaigns for a highly contested presidential elections have begun, and where militants continue to threaten attacks on the government.

The worries brought upon by the arrest of a fully armed ship is woven around the car bombings that targeted the country’s October 1 independence celebrations, the targeted killings allegedly committed by a radical Islamic sect in northern Nigerians, and the threat of new violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Some analysts suspect former militant and alleged arms dealer Henry Okah as a possible malefactor behind the shipment. Meanwhile Okah faces terrorism charges in South Africa after authorities say he hatched the October 1 bombing and served as the de facto voice of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main militant group in the oil rich region of Nigeria.

The seizure of the loaded armed ship by Nigerian security authorities also throws focus on recent ethnic clashes that escalated in Cross River- a state in southern Nigeria, where 30 people are reported to have been killed after youths armed with machetes, guns and explosives attacked rival villages, killing on sight and burning houses.

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