The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has distributed 136, 476 bags of rice in the last one year to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the Northeast and Benin.
Public Relations Officer of the Service, Joseph Attah, announced this on Tuesday in Abuja.
The distribution of relief materials by the NCS to the IDPs camps across the country was in compliance with presidential directive to distribute seized perishable items to IDPs in the North-East.
He said that the reinstatement of the ban on rice importation through the land borders few months after lifting it in 2016 was to stem the tide of rice smuggling.
Attah said that between Jan. 1, and March 31, the service had made a seizure of 136,506 (50kg) bags of rice from different land borders.
“I can assure you that our anti-smuggling strategy is yielding positive dividend in the last three months (January to March), we seized a total of 136, 506 50kg bags of rice.
“The last one year (March 2016 to March 2017), we made a seizure of 205, 825 bags with a duty paid value of over N1 billion, that is just rice alone.
“To build another layer of policing, we have what we call the compliance team, which made a total of 921 seizures with a Duty Paid Value of over N1 billion, most of these seizures are rice and then vehicles,’’ he said.
Attah said that customs in its fight against rice smugglers had record successes, adding that the service had paid great prices, especially in the area of loss of the lives of its officers.
He said that the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.), had adopted holistic approach in fighting smuggling in the country.
Attah said that beyond seizing and arresting smugglers, the service had been in the fore front of educating the public about the unwholesome nature of these rice because of the method used in smuggling them.
“The idea is to protect Nigerians and shift taste to locally produced rice.
“We believe that when there is no patronage, there will be no smuggling.
“Therefore, it is disturbing to see people who should rather invest their energy in a profitable venture of providing intelligence to the service to protect their businesses, national economy and security engaging in smuggling,’’ he explained.
He said that the service was investigating the information that some rich individuals allegedly buy motorcycles and handsets for unemployed youths to monitor the movement of Customs patrol men and gives information that aide smuggling of rice.
“There were cases when villagers were mobilised to attack and block officers when they were carrying seized rice to the station.
“They use such confusion as smoke screen to inform smugglers to follow another route, just to beat the check and achieve their criminal venture,” he added.
Attah, therefore, called on Nigerians to desist from smuggling, adding that any country where smuggling activities was high, it kills the economy.