The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, has arrested eight suspects involved in the smuggling of 520 bags of contraband rice.
The smuggled rice, said to be brought in from the Republic of Cameroon, were seized in three different arrests made by naval officers on patrol consisting of three suspects and 274 seized bags of 50kg rice; three suspects and 204 bags of 50kg rice; and two suspects with 42 bags of 50kg rice.
A fibre boat and two wooden boats along with outboard engines and pumping machines were also seized.
Speaking, yesterday, in Ibaka during the hand-over of the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service, FOB Commanding Officer, Captain Yusuf Idris, said the navy has been performing its constitutional duty of ridding the nation’s waterways of illegal smuggling.
He said the FOB had been empowered by the navy’s high command to end criminal activities in the Eastern Marine flank and cripple the pockets of smugglers.
“We will assist them in crippling their pocket the more since they refuse to hear our plea and advise to look elsewhere for a job that is legally allowed instead of engaging in illegal smuggling. We don’t have any option than to arrest and hand them over to the Nigeria Customs Service for further investigation and possible prosecution and even conviction.
“Some of the suspected smugglers are second offenders, so it is deliberate; they are not willing to stop and we have told them that for us here, that is what we do for a living. We have been paid with tax payers’ money to ensure that this country is rid of all illegalities, especially on the nation’s maritime domain and for us in the Eastern flank.
“I am sure the message is clear, it’s been felt, it’s been seen that the navy is not tired and they are also ready to sabotage their effort in robbing the Nigerian government of its legitimate earnings,” he said.
Chief Superintendent of Customs, Nigeria Customs Service, Ibrahim Adamu who received the items and suspects on behalf of the Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, NCS, Port Harcourt, Elton Edorhe, commended the Nigerian Navy for their cooperation and collaboration towards the fight against smuggling.
He said, “I hope that this collaboration and synergy will continue until all forms of smuggling within the maritime environment is checked and as the CO has said, the message has been sent out, it is only left for the smugglers and would be smugglers to desist from this economic sabotage.”
One of the suspects, 32-year old father of four children, Roland Effiong from Mbo LGA said he was not aware that bringing in rice from Cameroon was a crime.
“I went to Cameroon to carry oil due to the problem there and also bring rice to Nigeria, and we were caught by the Navy and brought to their base. I did not know it was a crime to bring in rice to Nigeria. This is my first time in the business,” he said