Okon Bassey in Uyo
In close surveillances of the nation’s international water ways, the Nigerian Navy operating from the Akwa Ibom State axis has arrested 28 persons allegedly involved in the smuggling of contraband rice into the country for the past one month.
This result achieved by the Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of the state in the various operations initiated between April 3 and the early month of May, 2019 also led to the seizure of about 2,044 bags of rice.
The latest arrest made was carried out between May 1 and 3, 2019 with 12 suspects arrested and 742 bags of contraband rice seized in four different onslaught executed within the period.
According to the Commanding Officer, FOB, Ibaka, Captain Toritseju Vincent, the first set of arrests include five suspects and 339 bags of 50kg rice, while the second set also has five suspects and 301 bags of 50kg rice, and the third and fourth arrests included one suspect each, 41 and 43 bags of 50kg rice respectively.
Other items seized from the suspects include two wooden boats, two fibre boats, four outboard engines and four pumping machines.
Speaking while handing over the suspects and the seized items to the Nigeria Customs Service, Vincent vowed that the Navy would remain committed to its assigned roles in checking illegalities on the water ways.
“On behalf of the flag officer, Eastern Naval Command, I am handing over these five suspects who were apprehended on Wednesday, May 1, in the early hours of the morning with 339 bags of rice, one big wooden boat, two outboard engines and two pumping machines.
“Likewise, five suspects were arrested on May 3, at about 0700 hours around the Akpan platform axis and they had 301 bags of rice in their wooden boat, as well as two outboard engines and two pumping machines.
“We are handing over the suspects, the contraband goods and the boats to the Nigeria Customs, alongside the two suspects, 84 bags of contraband goods and two fibre boats.
“I will like to thank you for your support in the past few weeks; it has been a continuing operation. We will continue to do our best out there in the waters and believe we will always have your unconditional support in carrying out our constitutional roles as assigned to both services.
The suspects and the items were received on behalf of the Controller, Eastern Marine Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Port Harcourt, Elton, Assistant Controller, Ali Garko.
Garki thanked the Nigerian Navy for their efforts in tackling illegalities on the water ways, and warned the smugglers to deist from the act as it was detrimental to the nation’s economy.
“I thank the Nigerian Navy for this wonderful effort. We will like to reiterate to those people who are in this business to desist because it is ruining our economy. The earlier they hearken to this, the better for all of us,” he stated.
Two of the suspects, Mr. Edet Okon and his 17 year old nephew, Raphael Edem, said they were only passengers on the boat when it was arrested and were not part of the smugglers, indicating that returning to Nigeria was for them to visit their sick sister.
“I don’t know what is happening here. I boarded a boat in Cameroon to come and visit my sick sister, and then I saw myself here. I don’t know the boat was carrying rice because I was in a rush to come down to Nigeria. I have been in Cameroon for three years,” Okon said.
Also trying to exonerate himself, Edem said: “I have been living in Cameroon with my uncle for three years now. When my uncle told me my mum was sick, I boarded the boat to come to Nigeria but I did not know the boat was carrying rice, and I don’t know any of the people in the boat with me except my uncle, who I came with”.