The Strike Force Team of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has announced the seizure of 5,662 bags of suspected smuggled rice and 137 bales of second hand clothes both valued at N137 million.
Briefing Newsmen on Wednesday in Calabar, Mr Abdullahi Kirawa, National Coordinator, Headquarters of the NIS Strike Force Team, Abuja, said the seizure was made within Cross River and Akwa Ibom Area Commands of the service.
Kirawa, who is a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, said the Strike force team, which operated under `ZONE C,’ covered the South South and South East states of Nigeria.
According to him, the seizure was made within the last one month by men of the team in line with the federal government’s policy of curbing the menace of imported rice into the country.
“In the last one month, men of the strike force team have seized 5,662 suspected smuggled foreign bags of rice and 137 bales of second hand clothes within Calabar and Akwa Ibom Area Command.
“Out of the 5,662 bags of rice, 2,153 were handed over to the Strike Force Team by the Nigerian Navy. This shows the collaboration and synergy that exist between the NIS, Nigerian Navy, police and other sister agencies.
“It is of note that this seizure wouldn’t have been possible without the motivation of the Comptroller General of Custom, Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali, who has given us all that is required to do the job.
“The Comptroller General has given us all that is needed to ensure that not only is smuggling reduced or suppressed to the barest minimum, but to ensure that the menace of these smugglers is not perpetrated in these areas,” he said.
He called on members of the public to avail the service with useful and credible information that would help the team to make more arrests. He further said the seizure was high because of the yuletide where smugglers’ activities were on the increase.
“The suspects arrested with the rice will be charged to court accordingly. But for now, they are on administrative bail.
“I must commend the Nigerian Navy, Police and other security agencies for their collaboration and cooperation in this regard,” he said.
On what would be done with the seized rice and clothing, Kirawa explained that “the disposal of seized goods rests squarely on the board of the Nigeria Customs Service.”
He warned smugglers to desist from the act and take advantage of the agricultural policy of the federal government with a view to helping the country attain self-sufficiency in food production.