Nigerian officials seized a sizable amount of explosives hidden inside a shipping container from China at one of the West African nation's major ports, an official said Saturday, amid continued unrest and bombings across the oil-rich country.
The container arrived at Nigeria's Tin Can Port on June 14 on the MV Seng-Shi, with its bill of lading claiming the shipment from Huangpu, China contained industrial sockets and valves, said Wale Adeniyi, a spokesman for the Nigeria Customs Service. However, discrepancies on the shipping paperwork raised suspicions of the customs service, which kept watch over the container to see if someone came to pick it up, Adeniyi said.
Officials opened the container Friday to check its contents, he said, adding that they worried whatever could be inside of the containers could grow unstable during Nigeria's continuing rainy season, he said. Officials remain unsure whether the explosives were of a military or commercial grade.
"We saw them in different dimensions with cables, wires (and) some bolts," Adeniyi said.
The customs service handed the explosives over to Nigeria's federal police force. Authorities have launched an investigation into the shipment, Adeniyi said, though no arrests have been made.
Nigeria's chaotic ports in its megacity of Lagos see tons of cargo move through them daily, providing cars, imported food, refined gasoline and other products needed for the nation of 150 million people. Drugs and other illegal goods also flow through the ports, often aided by officials receiving bribes in a country considered by analysts to have one of the world's most corrupt governments.
It isn't the first time a shipment that could be used as weapons have been found in the country. In October 2010, authorities at Lagos' Apapa Port found a hidden shipment of 107 mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons from Iran. The shipment was supposedly bound for Gambia. A Nigerian and an Iranian face criminal charges over the shipment.
The explosives shipment also comes as Nigeria faces an increasingly bloody sectarian challenge from a radical Muslim sect known locally as Boko Haram. The sect, which wants strict implementation of Shariah law across the nation split between Christian and Muslims, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 suicide car bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria that killed 23 people and wounded 116 others.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.