Judex Okoro, Calabar
The clampdown on illegal smuggling seems to be yielding results as the Nigerian Navy has intercepted 455 bags of foreign rice.
The bags of rice, said to have been smuggled through the Cameroon border, is believed to worth N8m.
Speaking while handing over the bags of imported products and three suspects to the Nigeria Customs officials in Calabar on Tuesday, the Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship Victory, Commodore Vincent Okeke, said they impounded the bags of rice and arrested the suspect on Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Cotonou boats.
Okeke said: “We are here to hand over yet another set of 455 bags of rice smuggled from Cameroon. The arrest was made on Sunday 19th of May. We are here with three suspects with Cotonou boats to hand them over to the Customs for investigations and prosecution.
“The street value of the rice is about N8m. But like I said during the previous handing over, the value is not so significant. Put side by side the impact of smuggling on our economy, you will know that we should not focus on the value of rice. We should focus on the impact of smuggling on our economy, impact on unemployment, impact on the revenue that is supposed to accrue to the Federal government.”
He said the command is not relenting in its anti-smuggling fight as it is out for the smugglers.
Speaking also, the Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Eastern Marine Command, Johnson Gabriel, said: “I am here to take over 455 bags of rice, three suspects and a wooden boat. As usual, after taking over, we will do our own investigations, prepare their case files and take the suspects to court.
“All the other suspects handed over to us by the Nigerian Navy are already in court. They are now in prison custody and their prosecution has started. Some were arraigned two weeks ago at the Federal High Court, Calabar.
“We have a synergy with the Nigerian Navy. At this period of Ramadan, there is a high rate of smuggling activities as the smugglers believe people will need rice for Ramadan and maybe Sallah. The Navy is doing everything to help us and we are intensifying our own efforts too.
“Our investigations indicated that the three people that came in that boat were not the real owners. The real owners or consignees are Cameroonians.
“They went to Cameroon and collected these items, some of them on credit with the hope of coming to sell in Nigeria and returning the proceeds to the owners in Cameroon,” he stated.