By Ikora Ayungbe, Uyo
The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo local government area, Akwa Ibom state, has arrested three suspected smugglers and seized 416 bags of contraband rice, said to be brought into the country from the Republic of Cameroon.
The three suspects were intercepted in a wooden boat along the Mbo River by operatives of the navy during routine patrol and discovered that the medium boat which was fitted with two 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines, was carrying 416 smuggled 50kg bags of rice.
Speaking yesterday in Ibaka during the hand-over of the suspects, rice, boat and engines to the Nigeria Customs Service, Commanding Officer, Federal Operation Bureau (FOB) Captain Reginald Adoki, said the handover was customary and a way of renewing the commitment of the Navy to ridding the area of illegal activities on the waterways.
“The gunboat of FOB, Ibaka while conducting retinue patrol along Mbo river and other adjoining creeks intercepted a medium sized wooden boat. After offloading, it was discovered to be carrying 416 bags of 50kg rice, and two 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines which are fitted to the wooden boat. The three suspects, from preliminary investigations revealed they were bringing the rice from Cameroon.
“This handover is customary to us and a way of renewing the commitment the Navy has put in clearing this area of illegal activities and reiterate the confidence the Navy has in the Customs to deal with the cases handed over to them for further investigation and prosecution,” he stated.
Receiving the suspects and bags of rice from the Navy, the Controller, Eastern Marine Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Port Harcourt, Elton Edorhe, who was represented by Mr Ibrahim Adamu, chief superintendent of customs appealed to the smugglers to desist from harming the economy of the country through their actions.
He said, “On behalf of the Customs Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Controller Elton Edorhe, I thank the Navy for the seizures and appeal to the smugglers to consider the economy of the nation that is being bastardized through smuggling. They should do the needful and desist from this economic sabotage and also save themselves the pains of losing their money”.
However, one of the suspects, Mr. Victor Asuquo, a professional hair barber from Mbo local government area, said he was innocent of the charge against him.
Asuquo, who said he was returning home after about six months sojourn in Cameroon, stated that he was only a passenger in the boat and not involved in smuggling of the seized rice. “I am not involved in this smuggling; I just entered the boat as a passenger. The driver of the boat escaped when the boat was arrested, the three of us are passengers. I left Cameroon because of the crisis there and since I did not have an international passport to board a flying boat, I paid 5,000 franc to board the local boat,” he said.