The Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has intercepted 33 containers of expired and rotten rice and other illicit items worth N2.713 billion imported into the country through the seaport.
It was learnt that the rice, which was packaged in 50 KG bags for Nigerian companies had already spoilt, rotten, full of maggots and cockroaches.
Our correspondent learnt that the rice, which had expired since 2018, was imported from China and Thailand and was about to be smuggled into the Nigerian market; one of the containers contained some empty bags with new dates during inspection, apparently, to be used to rebag the expired rice.
Speaking at a media briefing on the seizure of rice and Tramadol at the Tin Can Island Port Command, the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, said that other items seized included one container of rice concealed with spare parts, 11 containers of unregistered pharmaceutical products, two containers of used tyres, one container of used clothing and four containers of refined vegetable oil in retail packs.
According to him, all the containers have been seized in line with the provisions of Customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 LFN 2004 sections 46 and 161.
The Customs boss added that efforts were on to arrest the persons behind the smuggling act going by the various addresses on the bags of rice and contacts on importation documents.
He said: “One significant thing about this seizure is that all the rice has expired or about to expire. Also remarkable is the seizure of variants and unregistered performance-enhancing drugs among the pharmaceutical.
“No doubt, those who imported these dangerous items do not wish us well. Imagine if they had succeeded in getting the expired rice in and then re-bagged and changed the expiration date for Nigerians to consume?”
Following the ongoing partial closure of the land border, he said since the inception of the exercise, assortments of remarkable seizures had been recorded across the various facets of its operations.
“Specifically, we are aware that the partial closure of the land border has resulted in the diversion of some cargo back to our seaports. While we welcome this development, which no doubt will boost our revenue, improve our trade fact and figures and sustain our diversification efforts, we have also recorded a number of seizures of unwholesome products, which otherwise would have been smuggled through the borders.
“Realising that there may be a possible backlash to the closure of the land borders, I directed all seaports and airports to beef up their surveillance and intercept any illicit and prohibited consignment for which attempt for their smuggling maybe made through these entry points.
“This decision was made considering that those consignments may have been paid for and the importers will devise means to ensure they are delivered to their warehouses in Nigeria,” he added.