The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, Mbo local council area of Akwa Ibom State, has seized 753 bags of rice and apprehended 16 suspected smugglers in five separate operations.
Other items seized include six outboard Yamaha engine boats, four wooden boats, two pumping machines and 10 cartons of Savon Cameroonian soap.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Yusuf Idris who said yesterday in Ibaka that the seized rice is more than one trailer load explained that the Navy has lived up to expectation going by the arrests and seizures made in one week.
He said despite appeals by the Nigerian Navy for people to involve in legitimate marine businesses, many have chosen to be obstinate, adding that the navy will not relent in its efforts to ensure that the country’s waterways is rid of all illegality.
He noted that the Navy is ready to bankrupt the sponsors of the illegal activity of rice smuggling and appealed to the Nigeria Customs Service and the media not to be tired of supporting the Nigerian Navy in the fight against maritime crime.
“We are ready, we will not be deterred, we will not be intimidated or tired and will remain dogged in this fight until the smugglers stop or we bring their sponsors to their knees.
“Nigeria as a country is already self-sufficient as far as rice production is concerned, so the efforts of the Federal Government will be protected by the Nigerian Navy; that is why our leadership has ensured that all that is required is given to us to fight this criminality and we are doing that.
“We are winning this fight and will make the smugglers bankrupt until they stop. Whatever style or method, wherever they follow as long as it is in the Nigerian maritime environment, the Nigerian Navy is watching them and will always get them arrested”.
Receiving the items and suspects, Deputy Superintendent of Customs and Unit Commander of Custom Strike Force in Uyo, Mr Goni Babagana said he was mandated by the Deputy Controller of Nigeria Customs Service and National Coordinator, Custom Strike Force, Mr Abdullahi Kirawa to receive the suspects and items from the Navy.
He said NC would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the suspects handed over to are duly prosecuted if found guilty.
“The items I will take over in the first set are one fibre boat, two suspects, one 115 horsepower Yamaha outboard engine, 39 bags of 50kg each parboiled rice and one 25kg parboiled rice.
“In the second operation: I take over one fibre boat, 3 suspects, one 150 horsepower Yamaha outboard boat engine, 40kg each of the smuggled parboiled rice and one 25kg each of the parboiled rice.
“In the second group: One wooden boat, 5 suspects, one 40 horsepower Yamaha boat engine, 326 50kg each parboiled rice, one pumping machine; One wooden boat: four suspects, two 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard engine, and 202 50kg each of smuggled parboiled rice.
“A wooden boat, 124 bags of 50kg rice, 10 cartons of Savon Cameroonian soap, one pumping machine and 150 horse power outboard engine,” he said.