The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, Mbo LGA in Akwa Ibom, says it has arrested three suspects and seized 416 bags of contraband rice brought in from the Republic of Cameroon.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Navy Cpt. Reginald Adoki made the disclosure during the handover of the seized items to Nigeria Customs officials in Mbo on Wednesday.
Adoki said the three suspects were intercepted in a wooden boat along the Mbo River by officials of the navy during a routine patrol.
They discovered that the medium boat which was fitted with two 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines was carrying the 416 bags of 50kg rice
He said: “The gunboat of FOB, Ibaka while conducting routine patrol along the 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.
“It also reiterates the confidence the Navy has in the customs to deal with the cases handed over to them for further investigation and prosecution,” Adoki said.
Receiving the suspects and bags of rice from the Navy, the Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Port Harcourt, Mr Elton Edorhe appealed to the smugglers to desist from harming the economy of the country through their actions.
Edorhe was represented by Mr Ibrahim Adamu, Chief Superintendent of Customs
“On behalf of the Customs Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Comptroller Elton Edorhe, I thank the Navy for the seizures and appeal to the smugglers to consider the economy of the nation that is being bastardised through smuggling.
“They should do the needful and desist from this economic sabotage and also save themselves the pains of losing their money,’’ he said.
However, one of the suspects, Mr Victor Asuquo, a professional barber from Mbo LGA, said he was innocent of the charge against him.
Asuquo, who said he was returning home after about six months sojourn in Cameroon, said he was only a passenger in the captured boat and not involved in smuggling.
He said, “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 francs to board the local boat,’’ he said.