The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, FOB, Ibaka, Mbo local government area of Akwa Ibom State has arrested 11 Nigerians and one Cameroonian smugglers and seized 1,706 bags of smuggled rice from them.
Also seized during the operation were large size wooden boat, three 40 horse power outboard engines, and two pumping machines.
The commanding officer of FOB, Captain Yusuf Idris, while handing over the suspects and the smuggled rice to Nigeria Customs at the weekend, assured that the Nigerian Navy would stop at nothing in tackling all forms of maritime illegalities.
He assured those involved in legitimate marine business of the support of the Navy always.
“I will continue to sound a note of warning to our brothers and sisters engaging in these illegalities, whether smuggling, illegal bunkering or any other maritime offense.
“The Nigerian Navy High Command frowns at it and that is why they equipped us more than ever and provided us with the necessary logistics require to stop this business.
“We have arrested so many, we have confiscated hundreds of thousands of bags of rice, and that is exactly the amount these illegal business rob the Nigerian state of.
“Under our watch and the Navy’s high command on board now, these illegalities wherever they are in this maritime environment will be arrested; the items confiscated and handed over to the relevant agencies for prosecution and conviction.
“I want to warn again, please desist, because we are not deterred and tired. As long as people come in with any illegality, whatever method is used we will be there to detect you and arrest you.
“We encourage our brothers engaging themselves in legal trade on the water to continue, we assure them that we will continue to support them to ensure that their legitimate businesses thrive.
“I therefore hand over the suspects to Mr. Goni, who represents the National Coordinator, Controller General of Customs Strike Force based here in Akwa Ibom,” he said.
Goni Babagana, a deputy Superintendent, while receiving the items, said he was mandated by the National Coordinator of the Nigeria Customs to take over the items and suspects from the FOB, Nigerian Navy, Ibaka.
“I have taken over 12 suspects: 11 Nigerians, 1 Cameroonian, 1,705 of 50Kg each and 1 of 25 Kg of smuggled parboiled rice; three 40 horse power Yamaha outboard engine, 2 pumping machines, 1 large wooden boat, 14 mobile phones, the sum of N18,200 belonging to Mr Emmanuel Eyo and 45,000 Franc belonging to Mr Efiok Eyo.
“I take over on behalf of my National Coordinator, Deputy Controller of Customs, Abudullahi Kurawa”.
The only Cameroonian suspect, Ngoa Francis pleaded innocence, saying that he only joined the boat carrying the smuggled rice because he did not have enough transport fare for his trip to Nigeria.
“I am from Cameroon, and a 29 year-old teacher. I was about to come to Nigeria and I saw the rice boat. I did not have enough money to come to Nigeria, so I pleaded that I perch with them and so I entered the boat.
“I don’t know anything about this smuggling business. I usually come to Nigeria during the weekends to buy biscuits, bobo and other things to sell in Cameroon,” he said.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.