Mudiaga Affe, Calabar
Commander of the Nigeria Navy Ship Victory in Calabar, Cross River State, Commodore Julius Nwagu, has vowed to wipe out imported rice smugglers from the Calabar waterways.
It is the fourth time in three months that the Navy would be arresting large quantity of contraband rice smuggled into the country from Cameroon.
Nwagu stated this in Calabar on Friday when he handed over five suspected smugglers and 174 bags of imported rice to the Nigeria Customs Service for further investigation and prosecution.
The smugglers were caught on July 4 along the Calabar channel while trying to smuggle the imported rice to Calabar.
He said, “We are here to hand over 174 bags of smuggled rice from Cameroon by smugglers that we caught on July 4 trying to bring the rice into Calabar. In accordance with our established procedures, we are handing over the 174 bags worth about N2.8m and the five persons we have arrested to Nigeria Customs Service for proper investigation.”
On the increase in smuggling activities, Nwagu said, “Well, we are not bothered but they should know that the Nigerian Navy is ready to arrest them at anytime. The maritime domain awareness capability of the Nigerian Navy is up and running.
“There is no hiding place in our maritime environment for any type of crime to succeed and we are ready to tackle illegality to any level in the Eastern Naval Command. They will continue to lose their money in this illegality.
“We are steps ahead of whatever they are doing. We are going to go for the main culprits- those who sponsor these crimes. I am sure we would soon parade them. We are ready to continue to arrest them and send them to the appropriate authority that will prosecute them.
“Since the beginning of the year, we have made arrest of over 7, 000 bags of smuggled rice valued at over N75m.”
Receiving the suspects and items, an Assistant Controller of Customs in charge of the Eastern Marine Command base in Calabar, Mr. Omachi Joshua, said the items would be taken to government warehouse while investigation would commence.
“Well, the normal thing is to transport the seized rice to government warehouse. For the suspects, due to the 24 hours deadline, we normally grant the suspects what we call administrative bail while the case will be charged to court.
“This year alone, this is the fourth consignment we are receiving. The first was about 4, 000 and subsequently 3, 000 and other. “We would continue to prosecute those arrested. Parboiled foreign rice is not allowed into the country. These recalcitrant smugglers will continue to be arrested. There is an unrelenting effort to make sure that we nip the activities in the bud,” he said.
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