James Emejo in Abuja
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has vowed to use all resources within its disposal to check the increasing rate of rice smuggling into the country.
It disclosed that a total of 35,194 bags of rice had been seized by the customs in the last two months.
Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi told THISDAY in an interview that the issue of rice had become critical in analysing food security in the country and warned that the service could not afford to ignore the menace of illegal importation of rice.
He said though it acknowledged that “we have a big problem but we are confronting it and we are getting results and we will continue to fine-tune our strategies as the situation demands.”
He said part of its long-term strategies in combating smuggling, particularly rice, is to acquire patrol boats to ensure that its operations are not restricted to the creeks but also take the fight to smugglers right in the sea.
However, a breakdown of the seizure showed the Seme border axis with 6, 022 bags of rice confiscated followed by Yekeme Creek near Badagry with 8,000 while a creek near Egbeda also in Badagry had 7,269 seizure.
He said: “We’ve found them (smugglers) increasingly using motorcycles and wooden canoes and you have the impression that they are carrying millets which is not contraband. This is the most predominant means of smuggling rice. The boats we have now can only operate around the creeks but when we have sea-going vessels, we would be able to take on the fight straight to the high seas and intercept them right from there so that they don’t even get close to our creeks.”
According to him: “As a regulatory agency charged with the statutory function of dealing with the issue of smuggling, we want to give a firm reassurance to all stakeholders that Nigerian Customs Service has been up to the task of ensuring that smuggled rice is kept out of our nation.”