The Oyo/Osun Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service said it intercepted a truck and six Mazda buses loaded with smuggled rice and kegs of vegetable oil.
Public Relations Officer of the command, Onuigbo Ifeoma said in a statement made available to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the seizures were made at different border points barely one month after the assumption of duty of the area controller of the command, Comptroller Udoaka Emmanuel.
Udoaka who supervised the counting of the smuggled items said a total of 853 bags of 50kg rice and 395 kegs of 25litres vegetable oil valued at N17million were seized during two different operations.
He said while the duty paid value (DPV) on the rice is N14.6million, the DPV on the vegetable oil is N3.1million.
He said that no suspect was arrested as the drivers and conductors abandoned the vehicles and ran away on sensing that the customs patrol team has trapped them. He however assured that the command would rely on intelligence gathering to arrest the suspects.
Udoaka while appealing to the media to help sensitise members of the public on the dangers of smuggling said smuggling does not only affect the economy but put the health of the people at risk.
While reiterating that the federal government ban on rice is still in force, Udoaka said that the smuggled rice had already expired having stayed too long in the warehouse, but were only re-labelled and re-bagged for the purpose of being smuggled into the country.
Giving a breakdown of the figures of the items, the CAC said the 12-tyre DAF truck with registration number MUS 203 XL had 600 bags while the Mazda buses with registration numbers XB 330 GBH; XF 571 NRK; RLG 123 XA and KJA 701 XJ were loaded with 200 bags each.
He said, “The smugglers took advantage of the recent mass deployment of officers and men in Nigeria Customs Service to indulge in their unwholesome activities with the belief that we will be caught off guard.
“We will continue to reiterate our stand on zero tolerance for revenue leakage and reduction of smuggling to the barest minimum by bringing the economic saboteurs to book and face the long arm of the law.
“Our resolve to rid this axis of recalcitrant and unpatriotic Nigerians who engage in nefarious activities is a bond we must keep. The ban on importation of rice by the federal government through the land borders in order to transform and improve our agriculture sector is still in place, and Customs is committed to implementing this federal government policy to the letter.
“These seized bags of rice have been stored in warehouse in Benin Republic without proper pest control, making them prone to all manner of pest. We should also understand that most of these smuggled products have exceeded their shelf life and therefore expired and are not safe for consumption. Yet they are re-bagged and re-labelled and dumped in our country.
“We also know that as long as smuggling thrives, our economy will never pick up; our industries will do well if smuggling is checked. Smuggling kills the economy but enriches the smuggler.
“We appeal to well-meaningful citizens of Nigeria to willingly assist in volunteering information about the smugglers, their agents and collaborators, and we promise to treat any given information with utmost confidentiality.”