Even with the influx of smuggled rice into the Nigerian market, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) claims it is winning the war against illegal importation of the commodity into the country through the creeks and land borders.
Controller, Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’, Lagos Comptroller Isa Nuhu, stated this yesterday while briefing newsmen on the activities of his command for last year.
Nuhu claimed that the situation would have been worse had customs not succeeded in curtailing the smuggling of the commodity into the country.
“The question is rice, rice. Honestly, I don’t blame you. If you go to the market today, Daleko in particular, you will think that customs is not working because the rice we are saying that we seize are still found in the market. So, how can an officer tell me that he is working when we still see what has been banned in the market? So when somebody tells me that, I always say that he is justified. But then it is like the person is just looking at one side of the coin.
“Sincerely, before you can make an objective judgment, one needs to look at both sides of the coin. You can go to our warehouses and look at the amount of rice that customs has succeeded in intercepting, then you will know that we are not loosing this battle and if customs is not there, things would have been very worse. Customs day in, day out is working to checkmate the activities of these rice smugglers and as far as I am concerned, I can tell you we are winning this war,” he said.
Nuhu stressed on the need to not only educate smugglers but also the need to enlighten border communities where smuggling thrives in order to reduce the menace noting that with the complexity and porous nature of Nigerian borders, it may be difficult to totally eradicate the menace.
“Apart from the smugglers, the communities thrive on smuggling activities, the communities even help to expand the waterways where they will use to transport rice from bigger vessels and you know the Nigeria borders are so complex. So what we need to do is to empower them to know that smuggling is injurious to the economy because one the reason why people smuggle is poverty. Most of them don’t have anything to do because they are not educated and as far as a smuggler is concerned, he is not committing any offence but just doing a normal trade” he said.
Giving account of the unit’s anti smuggling drive between January and December 2013, Nuhu said that a total of 3, 553 assorted prohibited goods worth over N1billion were seized. This figure he said represents a significant improvement from what it recorded in 2012 as it accounts for over 50 percent in terms of Duty Paid Value (DPV) and other variables.
Giving a breakdown of the items seized, Nuhu said that 1,273 seizures of 50kg parboiled rice totaling 65, 563 with a DPV of N360,596,500; 399 seizures of poultry products totaling 59,058 cartons with a DPV of N270, 591,600 and 8 seizures of hard drugs and narcotics with a DPV of N42, 965,500 were intercepted in the review period.
Others are 28 different seizures of used tyres worth N29, 761, 825; 408 seizures of vegetable oil with a DPV of N66, 207,500 and 865 different seizures of general merchandise with a DPV of N383, 966,033.
The unit also apprehended 217 suspects in connection with the seizures. He said while some are still being investigated by the legal unit, others have been prosecuted.