The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo local government area, Akwa Ibom State, has arrested four suspects with 120 bags of contraband rice suspected to be smuggled from Cameron.
The Navy also impounded three fibre boats with 200, 175 and 150 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines used by the suspects to ferry the contraband rice to Nigeria.
Other items seized include generator alongside other items used by the smugglers in their illegal operations. Addressing correspondents in Ibaka last weekend during the hand-over of the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service the, Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Yusuf Idris, represented by Captain Reginald Adoki said the Navy will not cease to apprehend smugglers and expose the new practice of splitting the smuggled rice into smaller boats to escape arrest.
He said the Nigerian Navy is committed to raiding the water ways of illegal activities particularly smuggling which he described as a perennial problem, noting that the authorities of the Navy has equipped the base with everything they need to check all forms of marine crimes.
“On behalf of the Commanding Officer of the base, I hand over these 4 suspects, all of them Nigerians and a total of 120 bags of 50kg rice, 4 Yamaha outboard engines which have 200 horsepower, 175 horsepower and 150 horsepower; there is also one defective generator and other items.” Mbo River close to the base loaded with 50kg of foreign rice suspected to have been smuggled into the country from the Republic of Cameroon.
“It is my wish to continue to reiterate the commitment of the Nigerian Navy to rid the waterways of illegal activities particularly smuggling which has been a perennial problem in their area.
We have observed the use of smaller boats by smugglers to converge the illegal products thinking that if it is put in bigger boats, it is easily detectable. “Their choice of using smaller boats and distributed the rice into three boats was a way of evading arrest. Despite all these tactics, the Navy has a more robust and intelligent arrangement that no matter how they try to evade detection, we will always detect them and bring them to book,” he said.
Receiving the suspects and items, the Chief Superintendent of Customs in charge of harbour, Ibrahim Adamu who represented the Controller, Eastern Marine Command, NCS, Port Harcourt, Elton Edorhe, appreciated the Nigerian Navy for the collaboration existing between them and appealed that it i should be sustained.
“On behalf of the Custom Area Commander, Elton Edorhe, we will like to use this opportunity to thank the Nigerian Navy, FOC Ibaka, for this wonderful seizure. We hope that this synergy and collaboration that has existed will be sustained.
“I use this opportunity to call on the smugglers, no matter the trick they would use in concealing these illegal items; definitely, the Navy will always fish them out. A word is enough for the wise; they should do the needful and desist from this economic sabotage,” he stated.
Two of the suspects, a driver of one of the boats and his assistant denied being part of the illegal trade, saying they were only doing their jobs to earn a living.
The driver, Asuquo Etim said, “I carry passengers to Cameroon but I used to ply the Bakassi route. I didn’t have passengers to bring back from Cameroon so I decided to bring the rice.
This is my first time of carrying rice; I am an indigene of Oron in Akwa Ibom State”. The driver assistant, Ezekiel Etim from Okobo local government area of the State, said he was a load carrier at the beach and just wanted to earn a living to support his mother and little siblings.
“This is my first time of joining the driver who I saw by the road side. I joined him to carry passengers but since we found none to carry, the owners of the rice pleaded with us to convey the rice and we did. I am the conductor of the boat and assist to remove water from the boat; this is my first time and I have not even been paid for the job I did,” he lamented.