Acting Controller, Western Marine Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Chief Superintendent of Customs (CSC), Johnson Gabriel, said there has been a significant reduction in the level of smuggling through the waterways.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY in his office on Tuesday after the command recorded its first seizure of 170 bags of rice barely a week he assumed office, Gabriel said compared to what was being smuggled in through the waterways previously, the volume of goods especially rice has decreased as according to him, the big-time smugglers have been sent out of business, except for the small-time operators who still bring them in small quantities.
“The number of our seizure within our domain here is reducing and what that means is that, the big- time operators have been wrecked out of business and they are no more operating. It is the smaller ones who are taking 10 to 20 bags and then pile them up before they move, are the ones we are collecting now,” he said.
Speaking on the seizure with Duty Paid Value put at N1, 004,725, Gabriel said his officers acted on a tip off when the smugglers piled up the rice at a riverine community in Badagry from where they would be moved to various markets.
“We have informants all around and they informed us that there is a pile up of rice there and when we got there, immediately they sighted us, they ran out and we got a boat and evacuated the rice.”
He said the small-time operators have now adopted a new tactics that would prevent Customs from not only arresting them, but also intercepting their goods by ensuring they sink the boat when they sight officers.
“We have problem with the issue of arrest. The smugglers, I mean the smaller ones that carried 20, 30 bags have now adopted a new system to make sure that we don’t get the rice. They have sworn that we will not get the consignment of rice, turkey or whatever it is and neither will we get the boat, so instead of allowing us to seize these things, when they sight us, they will just sink the boat and attempt to swim into the swamp and we won’t just want to shoot at human beings anyhow,” he said.
He however noted that the command under his watch was up to the task as they have also adopted a new mode of operation of laying ambush on the smugglers before they capsize the boat.
“We have adopted a game plan too to maintain silent movement instead of moving at top speed where our engine will be making noise, to make sure that we don’t let them know that we are coming, except when we are close to them in such a way that that they won’t be able to capsize the boat. What we do now is to lay in ambush. This has been our mode of operation now and that is why you find out most of the rice at times come in wet .he said.
The Customs boss added that in anticipation of the yuletide season when importation is expected to increase, the command has put in necessary measures to ensure that the economy does not suffer any loss which could result from smugglers’ unwholesome activities.