The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo local government area in Akwa Ibom State, has arrested 12 suspects in three different operations for smuggling 708 bags of 50kg rice into the country.
The 12 male suspects, which included a deaf and dumb suspect, were arrested alongside the wooden boats used to smuggle the rice during a routine patrol by Navy gunboats officers and ratings around the Effiat waterways.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Peter Yilme, said, in Ibaka during the hand-over of the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), that the smugglers were devising new ways of evading arrest but the Navy will not relent in curtailing the illegal trade.
He said, when one of the three arrested groups were accosted by Navy gunboats, the suspects dug holes in the boat to take in water and sink the boat.
He noted that, with the continuous arrests, smuggling activities have reduced, adding that the Navy was also tackling sea pirates.
Yilme, who was represented by the Base Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Yusuf, commended officers and ratings of the command for their resilience and hardwork in tracking down the smugglers, saying their action was in line with the directives of the Chief of Naval Staff and in compliance with the reference of the FOB.
“On behalf of the Commanding Officer, I am handing over 708 bags of smuggled rice and the suspects arrested by the Navy in three different operations to the Nigeria Customs Service,” he said.
Receiving the 12 suspects and 708 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, and for the frequent arrests.
Two of the suspects are brothers from Ondo State, who said the desire to survive pushed them into smuggling rice.
They said they were fishermen in Cameroon but since their trade was not bringing in money for them to cater for their families, they had to resort to smuggling rice, adding that the owner of the rice promised to pay them N15, 000 each.
One of the brothers, Badebo Orofio said, “I and my elder brother are working together and this is our first time in smuggling rice; we have not been doing this before. There are no other jobs for us to do so our Oga told us to bring the rice to Nigeria, that he will take care of everything.
“I just started working with him for two weeks now and he promised to pay me N15,000 to bring the rice from Cameroon to Nigeria”.