By Isaac Job, Uyo
The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area has arrested five suspects for smuggling 370 bags of contraband rice in Akwa Ibom state.
Addressing newsmen in Ibaka on Thursday during the handover of the suspects and 370 50 kg bags of smuggled rice to the Nigeria Customs Service, Commanding Officer, FOB, Capt. Toritseju Vincent, said the navy has made consistent arrests of smuggled rice in its drive to fulfil its anti smuggling patrol functions.
“Our continuing drive and one of our major functions in the Nigerian Navy is anti -smuggling patrols, and with our cooperation with the Nigeria Customs Service, we have consistently made arrests of illegal smuggling of rice from Cameroon into Nigeria.
“So an arrest was made on August 12, of these five suspects with a large wooden boat conveying 370 bags of rice. I want to use this opportunity to thank the customs for the continuous and unwavering support to curb this menace.
“On behalf of the flag officer commanding the Eastern Naval Command, I hereby hand over these 370 bags of the illicitly smuggled rice to the Nigeria Customs Service,” he said.
Receiving the suspects and seized bags of rice from the navy, Chief Superintendent of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Akwa Ibom state, Olutola John, commended the navy for supporting them in the discharge of their duties.
He assured that the customs will continue to support the navy in the drive to end smuggling on the water ways and explained that upon the completion of investigations, the suspects will be charged to court.
Speaking in an interview, one of the suspects, Robin Sunday Robin from Mbo Local Government Area of the state said he was hired as a water bailer to bring in the smuggled rice from Cameroon.
He confessed that it was his first time as a water bailer and that he was unaware that bringing in rice from Cameroon was illegal.
“I was hired as a water bailer by the owner of the rice, Chimezie to go to Cameroon and bring his rice for him. On my way back, I saw a navy gun boat. I was arrested after I told them I was carrying 370 bags of rice.
“They took me down to the navy base and locked me. This is my first time of being hired as a water bailer and I did not know that bringing in rice from Cameroon is wrong,” he said.