By Martins Nwanne
Patrol officers of Western Marine Command of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Navy sank a boat loaded with smuggled parboiled rice Thursday at Itohu near Badagry. They also seized another, loaded with 575 bags of the commodity in the same operation.
According to the Customs Area Comptroller (CAC) of Western Marine Command, Yusuf Umar, who spoke to journalists, the smugglers made attempts to escape as they were chased.
“The boats were heavily ladden and slow. The pressure made the smugglers head for the beach where they ran aground, causing water ingress into the boat.
“We were able to retrieve 375 bags before the boat went down to the bottom of the sea, while the second boat was seized intact with 575 bags of rice, with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N4,447,625.
“No arrests were made because the boats were latched to a flying boat, with which the smugglers sped away when they realised they would be arrested. You can see the several bags of rice being dried up in the open space in our premises. It is part of the 375 bags recovered from the sinking boat.”
He attributed the success of the operation to the cordial relationship and collaboration between the Nigeria Customs and the Nigerian Navy.
“It was important that we got the rice because its importation through the creeks is against Federal Government’s fiscal policy, which forbids rice importation through anywhere else except the seaports.”
He said that Navy Captain Simon Dogo, who played a significant role in the seizure of 26 sacks of cannabis last week, was the one who called on him at about the same hour (2.am) on Thursday, to alert him of the movement of the rice boats.
“His Commanding Officer, Commodore Abraham Adaji, is here and he will talk to you on these issues.”
Adaji is the Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft. He said that the Navy, as an agency of the Federal Government, has the responsibility for the security of the maritime environment.
“It is our constitutional responsibility to enforce Customs and fiscal laws of Nigeria and assist the Customs. Let me re-iterate what the CAC Umar has said. Let Nigerians return to lawful business. We are known as enterprising people. We can achieve a lot doing legitimate businesses instead of sabotaging the economy “For the few who will insist on their illegal activities, I can assure them that they will never find rest. Jointly, we will be on their backs.”