By Dennis Udoma, Senior Correspondent, Uyo
Deaf and dumb middle age man, was among the 12 suspects seized by the Nigerian Navy, Forward Operations Base at Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State on Monday.
The men were arrested in the act, around Effiat waterways, while smuggling about 708 bags of rice weighing 50kg into the country from the neighbouring Cameroun in wooden boats.
Commanding Officer of the Forward Operations Base, Captain Peter Yilme told newsmen in Ibaka during the hand-over of the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), that the smugglers had devised another approach to evade arrest, promising that, the Navy would not relent in fighting the illicit crime.
Captain Yilme said, while accosting them to the coastline, one of the suspects was trying to dig holes in the boat to sink the boat noting that, with the continuous surveillance and arrests, smuggling and sea pirate activities have reduced.
Represented by the Base Operations Officer at the handing over to the Nigerian Customs, Lt. Commander Kabiru Yusuf commended the officers and ratings for their resilience in tracking down the suspects, adding that, their action was in compliance with the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff.
According to him, “on behalf of the Commanding Officer, I hereby hand over 708 bags of smuggled rice, and the arrested suspects by the Navy in three different operations to the Nigeria Customs Service’’, while the Deputy Superintendent of Customs Service, Alabi Adedokun took turn to praise the gallant effort of the Nigerian Navy and cooperation with the service, as well as received the suspects and 708 bags of smuggled rice.
“I, Alabi, Adedokun take over the 12 suspects and 708 bags of foreign parboiled rice, on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service. We thank you very much for this cooperation”.
Two of the suspects from Ondo State, on interrogation with newsmen confessed to the crime saying that, attempt to survive forced them into the business. They also explained that, fishing was their occupation in Cameroon but since their business was not giving them the money they expected now, changed to smuggling rice.
They added that, the owner of the rice promised to pay them N15, 000 each for pushing the business.
“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”, they added.
Daily Watch recalls that, the Navy in the past few weeks have stepped up surveillance around the territorial waters in Akwa Ibom following the federal government directive on border closure thereby, leading to arrests of people trying to smuggle contraband goods especially, rice into the country.