…As Navy seizes 608 bags of rice, arrests 8 suspected smugglers in A’Ibom***
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operating Unit (FOU), Zone C, Owerri in Imo has confiscated 5,040 cartons of red grape drink smuggled into the state.
The NCS also seized 143 bales of fabrics with each bale containing 1,200 dozens of garments.
Controller of the NCS in Imo, Mr Kayode Olusemire made the disclosure while displaying the seized items at its office in Owerri on Wednesday.
Olusemire said that NCS officers in Owerri intercepted trailers conveying the smuggled items to Aba and Port Harcourt.
He said that the importers of the seized items would have to forfeit them to government as according to him, they were guilty of false declaration, an offence which contravened section 46 of Customs laws.
He added that the Pre-arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for the containers indicated that they had been loaded with industrial salt and agricultural pressure sprayer as against red grape drink and garments respectively discovered in the containers.
The controller however, said that the importers of the seized items must have been trying to evade import duty adding that the duty for the real contents of the containers was higher than that of the camouflaged items.
Olusemire frowned at continued cases of false declaration and their impact on the country’s economy while advising importers to desist from the act.
“The importers of these items are guilty of false declaration and the items should be forfeited to government because what we have in the PAAR is different from the actual contents of the containers.
“The import duty for garments is 20 per cent while that of agricultural pressure sprayer is five per cent, so I think the importers must have been trying to evade tax.
“Red grape juice is prohibited from coming into the country because its importation can render local fruit juice companies moribund, leading to unemployment and economic insecurity.
“We have credible intelligence across the country so we advise importers to desist from illegitimate practices for the overall good of our dear country,” he said.
In a related development, the Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOC) in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, also arrested eight suspected smugglers and seized 608 bags of 50kg rice from them.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Peter Yilme, handed over the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Wednesday in Mbo.
Yilme said that the suspects were arrested in three different operations by some Navy gunboats between Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 with 608 bags of rice conveyed in three medium-sized boats.
He warned that the FOB would not relent in arresting smugglers so as to stem illegal activities on the waterways “as long as they don’t desist from the trade’’.
Yilme, represented by Lt. Cdr. Kabiru Yusuf, Base Operations Officer, said “I hand over 608 bags of rice, eight suspects and three boats to the Superintendent of Nigeria Customs Service, Wasiu Adebowale.
Mr Michael Okon, one of the suspects from Akwa Ibom, said he was forced into smuggling the rice from Cameroon into Nigeria because he was hustling to survive.
Okon said that it was his first time in the trade because he needed money to bury his deceased mother.
“I went to Cameroon to buy the rice and on my way back, the Navy stopped me and brought me here.
“I don’t have money to bury my mum, that is why I decided to go and bring in rice since I don’t have anybody to help me,’’ Okon said.
Another suspect, Mr Joseph Etim, also said he was involved in rice smuggling for the first time because he was jobless.
“I am here because I was caught smuggling rice.
“I went to Cameroon to buy rice and on my way coming back, the Naval Police arrested me.
“I don’t have somebody to help me so when I saw the opportunity and I went to Cameroon.
“I was hustling to survive; somebody sent me to go and bring the rice,’’ Etim said.