Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The Comptroller in charge of the Federal Operations Units, Zone B, Kaduna, of the Nigeria Customs Service, Sarkin Kebbi Mustapha, has said that the Customs has frozen bank accounts of Nigerians smuggling rice into the country from Benin Republic.
“We have frozen accounts of Nigerians in Benin Republic who smuggled rice into the country because we know them. Their finances are no longer in their hands to carry on their illegal businesses. So they will find it difficult to operate the illegal business.
“I can tell you that 99 percent of rice in Benin Republic are destined for Nigeria,” Mustapha said.
While briefing newsmen on Thursday on the activities of the zone in the last three months, the Customs boss said items, including 4,893 bags of rice worth over N304 million were seized from smugglers during the period under review.
He also hosted stakeholders in rice farming and imported-car selling business, pleading with them to operate according to the law of the country.
Comptroller Mustapha appealed to rice farmers to assist officers and men of the Customs to report any suspicious place or individual engaging in smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
Responding to the Comptroller, Chairman of Kaduna chapter of rice farmers association, Alhaji Mohammed Numbu expressed satisfaction with Customs authority over the sanitisation meeting, saying: “We are encouraged to farm and produce enough rice for Kaduna State, so we are 100 percent behind you in the fight against rice smuggling into the country.”
He told car dealers to ensure that they obtained Customs duty on every vehicle they import, adding, “the era of smuggling vehicles into Nigeria is over because some of the smuggled vehicles are stockpiled with dangerous weapons coming especially from Libya where war is yet to be over.”
While disclosing that another seizure of 318 bags of foreign rice, out of which 149 bags were re-bagged in local sacks, as well as 85 jerry-cans of vegetable oil were made at Mando motor park, in Kaduna, the Customs boss called on Nigerians to go into rice production for the well-being of the nation.
“Every state in Nigeria can produce rice in large quantities, so we are not relenting in our efforts to mop up smuggled rice into the country.
He, however, admitted that, “our borders are too porous and we don’t have enough manpower to man these borders, even though Customs is trying it’s best; the number of Customs men are not enough to control the smugglers because there are so many illegal routes at these borders.”