FG May Report Iran to UN over Arms

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia is threatening to take action against Iran if it violated international law and United Nations’ sanctions in the arms smuggling case which the Nigerian government is still investigating.

Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomats suspect that the Iranian government is behind the secret shipment of weapons discovered last month in shipping containers at the Apapa Port in Lagos.

Ajumogobia who spoke yesterday after talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki in Abuja over the crisis said: “If Nigeria finds at the conclusion of the investigation that there has been a breach of international law, a breach of UN sanctions, Nigeria as a member of the UN Security Council will do what is necessary.”

Although sanctions against Iran are related to nuclear weapons, the minister noted that Nigeria as a member of the United Nations Security Council would take the necessary action if it finds that there has been a breach of international law.

However, THISDAY learnt that Nigeria may be under intense pressure to drag Iran before UN’s Sanctions Committee over the illicit arms shipment into the country, which was intercepted by security agencies last month.
The cargo, which arrived Nigeria in July, was said to have originated from Iran, a country currently under UN sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Resolution 1747 (2007), adopted by the Security Council at its 5647th meeting on March 24, 2007 against Iran’s nuclear programme, mandates all states to prohibit the procurement of any arms from Iran by their nationals, just as its forbids Iran from supplying or selling any arms.

Specifically, Paragraphs 5 of the Resolution reads: “that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related material, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran”.

Diplomatic sources at the UN told THISDAY that interested western countries are putting pressure on Nigeria to comply with Resolution 1929 of the UN Security Council which mandates countries to inspect all cargoes to and from Iran in their territory, and requires countries that undertake such inspection to submit an initial written report to the Sanctions Committee within five working days. Nigeria is one of the countries that voted in support of that resolution early this year.

“You should expect that certain countries would be interested in the development, because it affects a country which is under UN sanctions, specifically a country which had been slammed with an arms embargo.

“It has further taken a global dimension, because it’s been linked to Gaza, an area which the world had been striving to bring peace to,” a UN source said, while confirming that Nigeria is under pressure to comply with Resolution 1929.
By the resolution, Nigeria ought to have submitted an initial written report to the UN sanctions committee within five days of carrying out the inspection on the containers, stating the grounds for the inspection, result of such inspection, and if items prohibited for transfer are found.

The Iranian Permanent Representative to the UN, Mohammed Khazaee, was at the Nigerian Mission last week to meet with his Nigerian counterpart, Joy Ogwu, but diplomatic sources at the mission could not confirm whether the parley was in connection with the seized cargo.

There were however speculations that Ogwu was going to inform the UN sanctions committee of the development yesterday, but that had not taken place up to the time of filing this report. THISDAY gathered that the inability of Nigeria to comply with the resolution is because of the absence of a directive from Abuja in this respect.

“We deal with the Foreign Affairs Ministry; it is the various security agencies that will submit their intelligence reports to the National Security Adviser, who will now pass on such a report to the ministry.
“It is based on that report that the mission will be briefed on what to do. As I am talking to you, that has not happened.
“You know it has to do with a sensitive issue and may be they are taking their time to come up with a comprehensive report. The mission cannot do anything until it has been so directed from Abuja,” a source at the Nigerian Mission in New York said.
Responding to a question on the issue at a press briefing at the UN headquarters yesterday, acting spokesman to the UN secretary-general, Farhan Haq, referred jounalists to the sanctions committee chaired by Japanese Ambassador, Tsureo Nishida, of which Nigeria is also a member.

No information could however be obtained from the committee as at press time yesterday.Meanwhile, the Iranian foreign minister flew into Abuja late on Thursday to douse tensions between both countries over the arms shipment.

“A meeting was indeed held today (yesterday) betw-een the foreign minister of Iran and the Nigerian foreign minister. The meeting was over a crucial bilateral issue between the two countries,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Ozo Nwobu.
Ajumogobia also disclosed that Iran’s foreign minister has authorised Nigerian officials to interview Azimi Agajani, one of two Iranians implicated in the arms shipment. The minister disclosed that the other suspect has diplomatic immunity.
Nigerian authorities believe both men are hiding in the Iranian Embassy.
Azimi Agajani whose visa to Nigeria was granted on July 14, 2010 is linked to the consignee, Abass Usman, who is a Nigerian citizen, the minister said, while adding that the shipment was consigned to an address in Wuse, Abuja.

Nigeria however cannot take any action concerning the second Iranian suspect named Saed, Ajumogobia added, noting that the second suspect who is also in the Iranian Embassy is a diplomat and therefore enjoys diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
“Unless the Iranian government decides to waive his diplomatic immunity, then we can also talk to him, “but Azimi may be talking’ with our security officials even as we speak or before the end of today.
Ajumogobia foreclosed any attempt to expel the Iranian diplomat over the involvement of its nationals in the importation of illicit arms into the country, saying Nigeria would use diplomatic channels to address the issue.
He insisted that a quiet approach devoid of rancour that will generate a diplomatic solution was preferable.

“My counterpart, the Foreign Minister of Iran arrived yesterday and I had a very productive meeting with him at the end of which he gave his approval for security agents to have access to this other gentleman.
On whether he was enjoying the expected level of cooperation from Iran, he replied, “I’m happy that the Iranian government is cooperating with us I had a very useful and open meeting with the foreign minister and I think that is good sign.”
The Iranian Embassy after the arms story broke had released a statement earlier this month which failed to provide clarification on the status of its citizens wanted in connection with the concealed arms previously said to be meant for Palestine.
Ajumogobia told newsmen that investigations into the arms shipment deal are still ongoing, pointing out that some discoveries that have come to light cannot be shared.

He added that he decided to speak on the issue to dispel various speculations that have been awash in the news in recent times.
The minister’s address confirmed news reports that the consignment originated from Iran and the consignee is Abass Usman whose name was on the bill of laden.

He also said the arms were to be transhipped to Gambia, but added that investigation on this finding is yet to be concluded.
This contradicts earlier statements credited to the State Security Service that the arms were meant for Nigeria and were linked to the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta Henry Okay who is currently standing trial in South Africa over his suspected connection to Abuja’s October 1 bombings.
When prodded further on this, Ajumogobia became evasive on questions pertaining to the arms transhipment to Gambia.

Source: Thisday.

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