The Amigo Supermarket in Wuse 11 area is perhaps the busiest shopping place in Abuja. This was until a week ago, when security operatives took over the place following the alleged involvement of its owners in weapons trafficking. Their other business, the “Wonderland” is an exciting Children’s Park and is also the city’s best, attracting children on holiday from many parts of the country. Before I discovered Shoprite in Apo and their very competitive prices for groceries, Amigo was my family’s destination.
In a matter of two weeks, not only have the fortunes of these businesses changed, but that the perception of Lebanese businessmen, some of whom have resided in Nigeria in two to three generations has radically changed. The success of the Amigo investment in the new federal capital city had inspired a significant migration of young, ambitious Nigerians of Lebanese extraction from their hub in Kano to Abuja. There is no doubt that these arms dealing charges, scams and scandals involving these young entrepreneurs tumbling out of Amigo will harm, not the public image of the Lebanese in Nigeria but also are, potentially damaging to relations between Nigeria and the Arab countries.
The Lebanese community in Kano, through their President, Mr. Tahir Fadlallah has been outspoken since the incident, explaining that the deeds of a few must not be mistaken as the deeds of all. What compounded matters more for them is that the Kano Lebanese community has no less than three famous and prosperous Fadlallah families.
Each of them is separate although they are linked through marital and business connections, which are to be expected in any setting like that. In case of his own person, Tahir, leader of the community and his prosperous hotel business in Kano were initially, mistakenly joined in the alleged arms dealing business but following a protest, the newspaper involved retracted and offered an apology.
In a world in which everybody is hungry for money, where money is the only thing that matters to most, many would have assumed that the owners of successful businesses such as the one in question would be free of any such pressures to join the spree. Because nothing yet is proven and that the subject of the closure of Amigo and the arrest of its owners is still under investigation, you cannot say they are guilty or not.
One can however say that there is so much to worry about from the scale and sophistication of the weapons allegedly found in their possession. These items, as recovered inside coolers and hidden underground inside Tala Roda’s house included: 1166 mm anti-tank weapons; 282 mm bombs; 4 landmines; 21 RPG; 7 bombs; 1 RPG 7 tubes; 16 RPG 7 chargers; 9 Pistols; 36 hand grenades; 17 AK 47 rifles; I smg rifle; 44 AK 47 Magazines; 1 Pistol Magazine; 2 smg Magazine; 1545 slab Tnt and 10,921 of 7.62m Special ammunition.
There have been speculations that they were not weapons intended for Nigeria but Hezbollah in Lebanon. This doesn’t impress me. What are Hezbollah weapons doing in Nigeria? Where is the connection? If anyone is planning attacks on Israel or America interests in Nigeria, as earlier reports had said, where are those interests in Kano? If the weapons were for use or for sale in Nigeria, who are the recipients?
The National Assembly, in my view needs to make a more serious response to this major security issue, given that government cannot be trusted to do a good job of this investigation and the police, the Customs and other security services cannot also be trusted to do an honest job investigating themselves. There are too many traitors in the police and the Customs. How did the weapons come into the country in the first instance? This is a clear show of greed, plain and simple.
The police and the State Security Service, SSS are tapping telephones left right and centre but have no clue about the massive smuggling of weapons that is going on.
Certainly all the wheeling and dealing are known to police and the customs. They have ample evidence to nail and book the crooked businessmen involved in this and other illicit trades, only that their hands are tied so they maintain a studios silence.
Police and Customs know the exact whereabouts of weapon dealers. If they so wish, they can fish them out just as the United States did with Osama bin Laden. If the government desires it, no area is beyond its penetration. The problem is that our political class is out to enrich themselves at any cost with no care for their poor brethren except lip service.
When the Amigo weapons smuggling scheme is thoroughly investigated, it may consume the careers of some top shots in the police and the customs. But if successfully carried out, it may give a clue to the nation on how to resolve the question of the massive weaponry that now floods Plateau, Nassarawa, Kaduna, Kano and Benue States. A diligent investigation may even establish shocking connections between these incidents with Boko Haram, in the event that any such links exist. This angle must be investigated by the National Assembly.