The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo local government area, Akwa Ibom State have seized 210 bags of smuggled rice from three suspects, along with a medium sized boat and 40 horse power outboard engine.
Speaking on Thursday in Ibaka during the handing over of the suspects and contraband rice to the Nigeria Customs Service, Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Yusuf Idris said the three suspects were arrested by naval officers during their patrol of the area, and the seized rice is believed to have been smuggled in from the Republic of Cameroon.
He assured legitimate sea business men of the support of the Navy in carrying out their businesses on sea but noted that the navy will not relent in checking the activities of criminals on the waterways as long as the people have refused to desist from engaging in illegal maritime activities that impede on the economy of the country.
“We are here to hand over a contraband of some bags of rice and a medium sized wooden boat, specifically 201 bags of 50kg rice and 9 bags of 25kg rice, and 40 horse power outboard engine, including 3 crew members were arrested this morning by our men on patrol. The rice we believe was smuggled from the Republic of Cameroon.
“I have always said that smuggling is not a job and I have advised that those people engaged in smuggling illegal bunkering and other acts of maritime illegality should desist. We have told them severally that the Nigerian Navy including our sister service like the Nigerian Customs Service especially with the new commander of the Nigeria Strike Force unit commander in Uyo, we are ever ready to get rid of these illegalities wherever, whenever and whoever is involved, we will not be deterred but pursue you until this criminality is totally brought to its knees.
“If you fail to stop, we will also not fail to get you arrested and prosecuted. I will never allow the country, Nigeria to loose economically because of this illegality. What is due to Nigeria through this waterways must be given to it. Anything to sabotage the efforts of Mr President to make Nigeria self sufficient in rice production, that act will meet with stiff resistance from us because the current Nigerian Navy has empowered and equipped us with all that is necessary to get to wherever you are and that is what we are doing and will continue to do.
“I want to assure legitimate sea users of our resolve to continue to assist them and protect them whenever and wherever necessary to carry out their legitimate activities at sea. I will be handing over the three crew members and items mentioned earlier to assistant deputy superintendent of customs,” he said.
Receiving the items, Deputy Superintendent and Unit Commander, Strike Force, Nigerian Customs Service, Mr Goni Babagana said, “I do hereby take over 201 50kg and nine 25kg bags of rice on behalf of my National Coordinator, Controller General Strike Force, Acting Controller of Nigerian Customs, Abudullahi Kurawa”.
One of the suspects, 19 year-old Victor Okon from Oron local government area, Akwa Ibom State said he joined the trade because of lack of job and he needed to survive.
The second suspect, Nseabasi Okon, also from Oron local government area said his involvement in the trade was his first time, “I bring in goods from Cameroon and was told to bring in the product. I did not know what it was all about”.