Thousands of bags of rice being smuggled into Nigeria have been intercepted by security operatives.
The Nigerian Navy Ship Victory in Calabar, Cross River State on Sunday intercepted 3,039 bags of contraband rice worth N46m being smuggled into the country from Cameroon.
The seizure, which represents the highest that the Navy has recorded in recent times, is coming barely one week after a similar interception of 257 bags of rice that was made along the Calabar Channel.
The Commander, NNS Victory, Commodore Julius Nwagu, said the 3,039 bags of contraband rice was intercepted in Bakassi Local Government Area of the state.
Nwagu, who paraded suspect, Lawrence Onaka, at the Custom’s Government Warehouse in Calabar, said his arrest was made at the Effiong Nsung community in Bakassi Local Government Area of the state.
He stated, “The Nigerian Navy apprehended one suspect, Lawrence Onaka, with 3,039 bags of contraband rice. Four trucks were used in conveying the rice alongside four outboard engines. The goods and the suspect have been handed over to officials of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“The value of the rice is about N46m and this is outside the 257 bags of 50kg bags we also seized some days ago.”
The commander added that the navy had zero tolerance for all forms of criminality along the nation’s maritime domain, noting that the command would continue to collaborate with sister agencies to end such illegalities.
He said the arrest was remarkable as it was the first time the navy would be extending its tentacles to the Bakassi waters in the fight against contraband rice.
Nwagu added, “This is the first time the Nigerian Navy has extended its tentacles to the Bakassi waters and we are going to sustain it. I want to use this opportunity to advise our traders that sooner rather than later, we are going to move into the markets shop by shop to get every foreign rice out of our shops because they are banned.
“The navy will continue to ensure that it implements the government’s policies and there is no going back on it. The navy is presently waging a serious war against smuggling and the command is going after those who own these products rather than boat drivers.”
Speaking while receiving the suspect and the confiscated items, the Assistant Controller of Customs in charge of the Eastern Marine Command base in Calabar, Mr Joshua Omachi, said the command would continue to partner sister security agencies to end the scourge of smuggling.
He stated that so far, about 14,000 bags of 50kg parboiled rice had been seized in the state this year, reaffirming the determination of the command to end all forms of criminality.
Omachi noted that as soon as investigations were completed, the suspect would be charged to court and the goods forfeited to the government.
The suspect, Omaka, said he got into the business in order get money to feed his children.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit, Zone C, Owerri, Imo State, last week intercepted and seized a 20-foot container trailer carrying over 430 bags of foreign rice with Duty Paid Value of N8,640,000.
Other subsequent seizures the unit recorded were a lorry carrying used refrigerators with other contraband goods, and two buses stocked with over 100 sacks of used shoes.
The Customs stated that the DPV of the latter items could not be immediately and correctly ascertained as of the time of showcasing the seized consignments on Monday.
“Sequel to the fact that some of the goods were just intercepted and seized this afternoon, we cannot succinctly and accurately give out the Duty Paid Value on them,” the Customs Area Controller, Mr Kayode Olusemire, said.
Showcasing the seized consignments at the Imo/Abia Command of the unit in Owerri, Olusemire stated that the trailer conveying the foreign rice was intercepted in the Port Harcourt axis, adding that it was loaded at one of the creeks.