Nigeria Intercepts Iran Arms Shipment

By Crail, Peter | Arms Control Today, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Nigeria Intercepts Iran Arms Shipment


Crail, Peter, Arms Control Today


Nigeria has seized a weapons shipment from Iran that appears to violate a UN arms embargo, Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia told reporters in New York Nov. 16.

After "preliminary investigations," Nigeria's permanent mission in New York reported the October seizure to a UN sanctions committee, Ajumogobia said.

Nigerian officials said the shipment contained artillery rockets and small arms and ammunition. The French-based company CMA CGM, which transported the containers, said in an Oct. 30 statement that the shipping containers were labeled as "packages of glass wool and pallets of stone" and were picked up in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and unloaded in the Nigerian port of Lagos in July, where they were transferred to a customs depot.

Two sets of shipping documents obtained by the Nigerian authorities were found to have been associated with the 13container shipment. An initial set consigned the containers to a Nigerian, while a second set said that the shipment was bound for Gambia. Ajumogobia said the investigation into the actual destination was continuing.

The Gambian government issued a statement Nov. 22 indicating that it was severing all diplomatic and economic ties with Iran, providing Iranian officials with 48 hours to leave the country. The statement did not make any mention of the arms shipment.

The shipment is alleged to have violated a 2007 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from transferring "any arms or related material." This June, the council adopted additional sanctions that tightened enforcement of the penalties against Iran, calling on all countries to inspect shipments to or from Iran suspected of violating the sanctions.

Nigeria's referral of the matter to the Security Council follows on the heels of a Nov. 12 meeting between Ajumogobia and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the arms shipment.

During a press conference following that meeting, Ajumogobia pledged that Nigeria would report the matter to the council as required if the weapons were determined to be a breach of UN sanctions. Nigeria currently holds a rotating seat on the 15-member council.

Mottaki, however, told reporters in Afghanistan Nov. 15 that the matter was a "misunderstanding" that had been "cleared up" with Nigeria. "A private company which had sold conventional and defensive weapons to a West African country had transferred the shipment through Nigeria," he said.

The UN sanctions bar Iranian nationals from transferring arms as well.

Nigerian authorities questioned an Iranian national in the capital of Abuja in connection with the shipment. Ajumogobia said Nov. 16 that the individual was being interrogated and that "he's been cooperating with the security agents."

Similar shipments have been found in the past to have violated the UN embargo on Iranian arms transfers. Last December, a report by the committee overseeing the sanctions on Iran said that three such illicit arms shipments had been reported in 2009.

In all three cases, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) was found to be responsible for transporting the shipments. The UN sanctions adopted in June require that countries and firms "exercise vigilance" when doing business with IRISL, and U. …

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