- As Rice smuggling booms at border towns
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on Sunday warned that the agency would declare any unmanned ships found within the nation’s territorial waters as wrecks, and its owners sanctioned appropriately.
The Director General of the Agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside indicated this in a statement issued and signed by his Deputy Director, Corporate Relations, Isichei Osamgbi, highlighting that the decision is to ensure a safe and secure shipping on the Nigerian territorial waters.
Specifically demanding for the immediate removal of such vessels, on or before 28th of April 2017, Dakuku further warned that the owners risks forfeiture of such vessels or a removal at the expense of such owners.
“It is instructive to ensure that our waters remain safe for navigation in order to advance our maritime interests.
“All abandoned ships will be declared as wrecks and the Agency will ensure that nothing impedes safe navigation in our waters by removing them”, Dakuku stated, saying it is in line with the Agency mandate.
“In line with our mandate on the protection of the marine environment and safety of navigation within Nigerian waters and our powers as the receiver of wrecks; owners of all abandoned ships, vessels and derelicts are sternly warned to seek removal plan permits from the Agency and ensure the removal of these wrecks and derelicts from our waters on or before April 28th, 2017 failure of which would attract appropriate sanction”, posited the NIMASA Helmsman, stressing that NIMASA is empowered to do so in line with the powers vested in it by the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 and other enabling Acts and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) instruments.
It should be noted that Nigeria is party to the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (Nairobi Convention 2007). The Convention is a treaty of the IMO with the purpose of prompt and effective removal of Shipwrecks located in the Parties’ territorial waters including its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that may be hazardous to navigation or environment. The convention gives States’ Authority to remove wrecks and in Nigeria’s case NIMASA is the receiver of wrecks.
All abandoned Vessels littering the waterways and the shoreline of the country are affected by this directive.
In the meantime, Nigeria’s bid to be self-sufficient in rice production is being threatened by smugglers, The Nation has learnt.
Lagos and Ogun states are flooded with smuggled rice daily. From Idi-Iroko to Atan and Sango Ota, all in Ogun State, smugglers use bush paths to smuggle the commodity into the country.
The smugglers, Idi-Iroko border sources said, were taking advantage on the high price of the item, which is Nigeria’s staple food, to smuggle it.
Findings revealed that smugglers collect N1,500 to smuggle the item from Owode in Ogun State to Ido and Oyingbo markets in Lagos.
A bag of smuggled rice now sells for between N13,000 and N14,600 at Owode and Seme.
Many of the smugglers, it was gathered, were smiling to the banks with their huge financial returns.
The illicit rice business, investigation revealed, is booming because the Federal Government has discouraged rice importation through the land borders, while it is alleged that some Customs officers are conniving with the smugglers.
Investigation revealed that the smuggled rice is kept on top of motor cycles, passenger buses and specially refurbished vehicles heading for Lagos, Ifo and Sango area of Ogun State.
A rice trader at the popular Lusada Market in Ado-Odo Ota area of Ogun State, who refused to give her name, narrated the reason they were dealing on imported rice from Cotonou.
“I lost a lot of money when the vehicle bringing my rice to Lagos was impounded by Customs in April along Seme border. My experience is that there is not much Customs attention on rice in this area, and the profit we make is higher.
“If you use Seme axis, the highest profit anybody can make on rice is between N500 and N700 per 50kg bag, while we make between N1,200 and N1,350 on 50kg bags of rice throughLusada area,” she said.
She said rice’ demand is so high that ‘business people’ continue to travel long distances from inland towns and risk being arrested to smuggle rice into those axis.
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, she said, men and women flock to Cotonou and other neighbouring countries to buy rice and smuggle them in mostly on Sundays.
Investigation conducted by The Nation at the week-end revealed that there were no Customs cheek-points between Agbara and Atan and from Lusada to Alapoti and Ado-Odo Ota areas of Ogun State.
Findings also revealed that there was no effective policing of all the paths leading to the border by Customs to check the menace.
Additional report from Nation