The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, has nabbed 12 suspected rice smugglers.
According to the Commanding Officer (FOB), Captain Peter Yiime, 1,072 bags of 50kg smuggled rice, and two wooden boats were seized from the suspects.
Yilme said the arrests were made in two operations, and that the Navy is determined to end smuggling on the waterways.
Speaking on Tuesday in Ibaka during the handover of the items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Yilme said the Navy will sustain the anti-smuggling fight.
He urged the communities in the state to liaise with the Navy to fish out the perpetrators before they venture into the sea for the illegal trade.
Yilme who was represented at the handover by Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Yusuf, Base Operations Officer, FOB, said the two arrests involved eight suspects with 536 bags of rice, and four suspects with another 536 bags of rice.
“I hereby hand over two medium-sized wooden boats laden with 536 bags of rice each arrested around Effiat waterways and Mbo river to the Nigera Customs Service.
“The wooden boats along with its 12 crew were arrested at about 0345 and 2230 hours on Saturday, 21 September 2019 during a routine patrol by the Navy gunboats,” he said.
Receiving the 12 suspects and 1,072 bags of rice from the Nigerian Navy, Deputy Superintendent of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alabi, Adedokun commended the Navy for the cooperation existing between them.
“On behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), I Alabi, Adedokun take over the 12 defendants and 1,072 bags of foreign parboiled rice. On behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service, we thank you very much.”
Two of the suspects, a Cameroonian pastor, Samuel Gregory with Hope of Assurance in Christ Ministry International, and a Malian, Amadu Bello Jalo said they were innocent of the crime as they were only passengers on the boats.
Samuel Gregory said, “I came from Cameroon to attend a programme in Nigeria organised by Prophet Omotola Jeremiah in Owerri. I never knew the boat I was entering carried some illegal goods. I only found out when we landed off shore that the boat was carrying some illegal goods. This is my first time of coming to Nigeria,” he said.