The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOC) Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom has arrested 12 suspected smugglers and seized 1,072 bags of 50kg smuggled rice, and two wooden boats from them.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Capt. Peter Yilme, stated this while handling over the items and suspects to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Mbo, on Tuesday.
He said the arrests were made in two different operations in the area, adding that the Nigerian Navy was determined to end smuggling on the water ways.
Yilme stated that the Navy would take the fight against smuggling to the communities to fish out the perpetrators before they venture into the sea.
Yilme, represented 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 NCS.
“The wooden boats along with its 12 crew were arrested at about 03:45 and 22:30 hours on Saturday, 21 September 2019 during a routine patrol by the Navy gunboats,” he said.
Receiving the suspects and rice from the Nigerian Navy, Deputy Superintendent of NCS, Mr Alabi Adedokun, commended the Navy for the mutual cooperation.
“On behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), I, Alabi Adedokun, take over the 12 defendants and 1,072 bags of foreign parboiled rice.”
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.
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.
Jalo, a carpenter in Cameroon said he was on his way to Mali to visit his sick mother and had to pass through Nigeria, adding that he boarded the apprehended boat because he did not have enough money to take a speed boat.
He said: “I am a Malian and engage in carpentry work in Cameroon. I learnt that my mother was sick and was told to come home.
“I wanted to board a flying boat but I was told that the fare is N20,000 but since I didn’t have the money, the man said he would put me on a boat if I gave him N10,000.
“I did and he put me into the boat carrying illegal rice. I did not know that it was a crime to carry rice and that the rice was smuggled,” he said.