Okon Bassey in Uyo
Five suspected rice smugglers from the neighbouring Republic of Cameroon arrested by the Nigerian Navy were yesterday official handed over to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for further investigation and prosecution.
The Commanding Officer of the Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Navy Captain Yusuf Idris, handed over the suspects and the seized items to the Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command of the NCS, Mr. Elton Edorhe, represented by Chief Superintendent of the Service, Mr. John Olutola.
The suspects, including Victor Esin, 30; Uchenna Lozoigbo, 34; Emmanuel Bassey, 25; Godwin Ating, 34, and Charles James, were reportedly arrested while in a mid-way into Nigerian territorial water.
Besides their arrest, a 52-foot canoe, two 40 BP Yamaha outboard engines, water pumping machine, fire extinguisher, 80 empty drums and 444 bags of rice were impounded by the Navy in the operation.
Speaking during the handing over of the suspect, the Commanding Officer of the FOB, Idris, cautioned that the Navy would not hesitate to arrest those involved in the smuggling of banned items into the country through the Nigeria waterways.
Warning perpetrators to desist forthwith from the illicit acts, he further stressed that the Navy always hand over suspects apprehended to appropriate government quarters for further investigation and prosecution.
Idris maintained that the Nigeria Navy would within its constitutional responsibility continue to ensure no loophole is created for smugglers to operate freely on the countryâ€™s territorial water.
â€œIn line with the harmonised standard procedures, the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base in Ibaka is here with our sister agency from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to hand over 444 bags of rice with five crew members on board the vessel that are suspected to have been smuggled into the country from the Republic of Cameroon.
â€œThe existing synergy between the navy and the NCS is very cordial, and both sides willing, undeterred and ever ready to collaborate in our efforts to rid the Nigerian maritime environment of all illegalities and criminal activities.
â€œIt is in that spirit today that I will also be handing over these items and suspects to the Chief Superintendent of the NCS, Olutola, who is representing the Comptroller of the Eastern Marine Command, Mr. Elton Edorhe.â€
Receiving the suspects and the seized items, Edorhe lauded the navy for their efforts in checking crimes and smugglers on the Nigeria waterways.
He frowned that smugglers were just adamant on their activities else they would have by now desisted from the illicit trade.