Okon Bassey in Uyo
The Nigerian Navy and the Nigeria Customs Service have expressed concern and displeasure that efforts by the federal government to boost rice production in Nigeria were being frustrated or hampered with the activities of rice smugglers into the country.
The Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, Captain Toritseju Vincent and the Zonal Commander, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Assistant Comptroller, Kolade Iloyode, said this during the parade of six suspected rice smugglers arrested with 416 bags contraband rice seized in two actions
“These anti-smuggling activities are inimical to the growth of our own rice industry. So we will continue to do our duty to make sure we nip it in bud, and bring it to a complete halt,” Vincent said.
The Commanding Officer who handed over the suspects and the seized bags of rice and wooden boats to the NCS explained that the first set of 223 bags of 50kg rice was intercepted in the early hours of 28th April by officials of the Navy while on duty, but no arrest was made as the driver of the boat escaped.
Also, he said the second boat carrying 193 bags of 50kg rice was intercepted and six suspects arrested, with two pumping machines and two outboard engines equally seized.
Vincent assured Nigerians that the Navy would continue to do its best to nip rice smuggling in the bud and bring it to a stop and promote government’s drive towards the production of local production rice.
“On behalf of the Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, I hereby hand over 223 bags of Habiba rice seized in the early hours of 28th April 2019. It was unaccompanied because the suspects abandoned the boat and the products, the pumping machine and an outboard engine.
“In the same morning of 28th April, we also intercepted another boat with six suspects. I am officially handing over the suspects, the boat, pumping machine and outboard engine to you, the Nigeria Customs along with 193 bags of Marori Benze rice, which we believe was brought in from Cameroon.
“We thank you for your cooperation, diligence and interaction in assisting us with these anti-smuggling operations. We would continue to do our best to promote the federal government’s drive in promoting our own local production of these goods,” he explained.
On his part, Iloyode, vowed that the suspects would be handed over for prosecution to serve as deterrent to others.
He added: “This activity of smugglers undermine the intention of the government towards the policy of rice sufficiency in the country. And the only way the government can achieve this and improve the economic status of the country is through arrests and combating these smuggling activities.”
Iloyode who was represented by Kabir Ogah, Deputy Superintendent of Customs, Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force (CGC), Zone C, Akwa Ibom State, lauded the Navy for the support in combating smuggling.
“I want to assure you that these products will be evacuated immediately and converted to seizures, and the suspects will be handed over to our legal department for prosecution, to serve as deterrent to others.
“You have proven that you are not deterred, you are not tired, and you have also indicated your interest to ensure that the Nigerian government succeeds in this fight.”
One of the suspects, Mr Abia Etim, said he was a passenger on the seized boat and joined the boat from Cameroon to Nigeria. Etim, a fisherman who plied his trade in Cameroon denied involvement in the smuggling of the bags of rice.
“I came from Cameroon with the boat carrying the rice. I fish in Cameroon and decided to come to Nigeria. I was only a passenger on the boat and not involved in the smuggling; the driver of the boat escaped.” he stated.