The Joint Task Force, comprising the Nigeria Customs Service, Army, Air Force, DSS and the Police, has seized 800 bags of smuggled rice from warehouses in Unyenghe, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The JTF, Border Drill Operations, led by the Comptroller of Customs and Sector Coordinator for South-South and South-East zones, Mr Shehu Abubakar, also threatened to burn down smugglers’ warehouses in the area if they do not desist from their illegal activities.
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Speaking with newsmen on Sunday after the raid, Abubakar described the area as a haven of smugglers, comfort zone and city of rice discovered through intelligence reports.
He said the exercise was the first in the area after many years, noting that smugglers have threatened to attack any security operative that dared to disrupt their operations.
He stated that the taskforce was empowered by law to search premises and to patrol freely, adding that the raid was in accordance with the federal government’s decision to grow the local economy and to free the country from substandard goods.
He explained also that being in possession of smuggled items was an offence punishable under the Customs and Excise Act.
“We are here at Unyenghe community in Mbo LGA of Akwa Ibom State to check and seize products smuggled into this community.
“This is the first time security agencies are visiting the community after so many years of smuggling activities in the area. They threatened to attack any security agency that may want to visit the area.
“They should rather start embarking on legitimate trade because if we come back and find out that they are still in the illegal business, we will have no option than to burn down their makeshift houses,” he stated.
Abubakar cautioned the people in the coastal community against aiding smuggling activities, stating that they could be smuggling weapons and other dangerous equipment that might turn out to be destructive to the community.
He commended the component commanders for their cooperation leading to the success of the exercise.