The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOC) in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, has 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.