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Published On: Thu, Feb 21st, 2013

Diplomatic War Looms between Nigeria, Russia, over Detained Russian Arms Importers

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A diplomatic war is brewing between Nigeria and Russia over the prosecution of 15 Russians indicted for illegal firearms and ammunition importation into Nigeria, Pointblanknews.com learned authoritatively.
Russia, which has sent several emissaries to the Nigerian Government seeking an unconditional release of its nationals, has vowed to use its veto power to block Nigeria from seeking a Permanent Seat at the Security Council of the United Nations.

But the Nigeria Government is insisting that the due process of the law has to be followed in line with the United Nations Arms Treaty, insisting that Russia should not intimidate her in her quest to seek the Seat at the U.N Security Council.
On October 19, 2011 off the coast of Lagos, the Russian Ship, MV Myre Seadiver, was seized by a Nigerian Naval patrol team, which also detained its 15-crew members. The intended destination or planned use of the arms was not clear.
The Weapons found on the vessel included 14 AK-47 rifles with 3,643 rounds of ammunition as well as 22 Benelli MR1 rifles with 4,955 rounds of ammunition.
The crew members on board the Ship loaded with arms are: Zhelyazkov Andrey, Savchenko Sergel, Chichkanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Lopatin Alexey and Baranovskly Nikolay.
Others are: Mishin Pavel, Llia Shubov, Dimitry Bannyrh, Alexander Tsarikov, Kononov Sergel, Korotchenko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail, and Stepan Oleksiuk.
Sources told Pointblanknews.com that the office of the National Security Adviser was alerted and the NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, swiftly ordered that the ship be impounded and the Russians arrested and charged to court.
A Lagos Federal High Court had ordered that the 15 fifteen Russians who are standing trial over unlawful importation of firearms and ammunition into the country be remanded in prison pending the determination of their bail.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke directed that the accused be kept at the Ikoyi prison,Lagos until February 25th when their bail bids would be determined.
But Russia, feeling embarrassed over the scandal are threatening that Nigeria would lose its non-Permanent member status at the U.N Security Council should their nationals be jailed.
Five permanent Security Council members, who wield the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Nigeria was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in October 2009 with no voting power and she is currently lobbying for the expansion of the Security Council Seat and seeking support to upgrade to a Permanent seat once that has been approved.
An official from the Russia’s foreign ministry who did not want to be named said it had reached a deal to secure the release of the sailors.
The official said that Nigeria had agreed to drop the case to preserve cordial relations between the two nations. He further added that if Nigeria reneges, Russia might have to use “other means to secure release of its Nationals.”
But a highly placed source within the Nigerian Government said that was not the case.
“There is no way we would have agreed to back down on the prosecution of the Russians for attempting to import weapons into Nigeria. Nigerians can’t get same if the reverse was the case.”
The source who does not want to be named because he has not been authorized to speak on the diplomatic row said, “look, at the moment we are dealing with terrorism and finding ways to end series of bombings by Boko Haram and now we have apprehended Russians with ship load of arms in our territory and they want us to let them go like that?”
He continued, “We cannot do that. It is even against a United Nations Treaty, which Russia is a big part of so why, should we bend the rules now.”
Another Diplomatic at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who does not want to be named dismissed the threat from Russia, describing it as a mere intimidation.
“We cannot be intimidated from doing what is right. Nigerians need to be protected and this Government is bent on doing everything legal to protect Nigerians. We cannot allow foreigners invade our country with ship loaded with arms and then we let them go free,” the Foreign Ministry official said.
According to him, “the Treaty by the U.N on Arms are clear and Nigeria’s role as a none permanent member of the U.N Security Council have been applauded globally so any threat from Russia over a criminal case against their nationals will fall flat.”
A U.N Treaty on Arms Trade recognizes the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial rights and interests of States in the international trade of conventional arms.
The Treaty reaffirms the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems;
Article 1 of the U.N Treaty on Arms Trade specifically empowers member states: To prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and their diversion to illegal and unauthorized end use.
But Russia is banking on its veto power to seek the release of its Nationals warning that they would block Nigeria from securing a seat at the Security Council of the U.N
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer, where illegal weapons have fuelled violence in several regions.
Russians are not only known for importation of weapons into African Countries, they and Ukrainians have also been linked with crude oil theft of which the Nigerian Government is currently seeking help from Britain to tackle.

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