TEHRAN, (AFP) — Iran said on Monday that an arms shipment sent from an Iranian port and discovered in Lagos was heading to a West African country, and the “misunderstanding” had since been cleared up with the Nigerian authorities.
“A private company which had sold conventional defence weapons to another country in West Africa had transferred the shipment via Nigeria which raised some doubts with relevant officials,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.
Mottaki said an Iranian national who was in Nigeria as the representative of the company “had offered explanations (to Nigerian authorities) and I believe the misunderstanding has been cleared.”
He did not specify whether the firm was Iranian.
On Friday, Nigeria threatened to report Iran to the UN Security Council if the arms shipment, which included rockets and grenades, violated sanctions over its sensitive nuclear programme.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions for pursuing the atomic programme, which the West suspects is masking a drive to build weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Nigeria had backed the latest round of UN sanctions against the Islamic republic on June 9.
Nigerian security agents last month intercepted 13 containers discharged from the vessel CMA CGM Everest at the country’s busiest port of Apapa in the economic hub of Lagos.
Shipping firm CMA CGM said the containers had been loaded and sealed in Iran by an Iranian businessman who does not appear on an international list of prohibited traders.
CMA CGM, which is based in France, said the shipment was loaded in Bandar Abbas, a southern port city of Iran, and discharged in Lagos in July.
But some time last month the shipper sought to have the containers reloaded and sent to Gambia, a tiny West African country wedged inside Senegal, according to the firm.
Nigeria’s intelligence agency said it had been monitoring the shipment, which was disguised as building material, before it arrived in the country.
It also said the shipment’s destination was Nigeria, and “any argument that the cargo came into the country by mistake is false”.
The intended recipient and the clearing agent have been arrested, the agency said.
Illegal weapons are widespread in Nigeria, but the recent discovery led to major concerns, with elections set for early next year and following independence day twin car bombings on October 1 that killed at least 12 people.
Elections in Nigeria have often been tainted by violence.