The Nigerian Navy has arrested five suspected rice smugglers and impounded a 52-foot canoe, two 40 BP Yamaha outboard engines, water pumping machine, fire extinguisher, 80 empty drums.
The navy also seized 444 bags of rice during the operation.
The suspects, Victor Esin, 30; Uchenna Lozoigbo, 34; Emmanuel Bassey, 25; Godwin Ating, 34, and Charles James, were said to have been apprehended in their mid journey into the Nigerian territorial water.
The Commanding Officer of the Forward Operating Base, Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Navy Captain Yusuf Idris, handed over the suspects and the seized items to the Nigeria Customs Service for further investigation and prosecution on Thursday.
Idris warned perpetrators of smuggled items into the country to desist from the illicit affairs, adding that NN would not relent in apprehending and handling such suspects to appropriate agencies for prosecution.
He added that the command would do everything within its constitutional responsibility to frustrate the efforts of smugglers by seizing even the least number of any smuggled items into Nigeria.
He said, “In line with the harmonised standard procedures, the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, is here with our sister agency from the Nigeria Customs Service to hand over 444 bags of rice with five crew members on board the vessel that are suspected to have been smuggled into the country from the Republic of Cameroon.
“The existing synergy between the Nigerian Navy and the Nigeria Customs Service is very cordial and with both sides willing, undeterred and ever ready to collaborate in our efforts to rid the Nigerian maritime environment of all illegalities and criminal activities.
“It is in that spirit today that I will also be handing over these items and suspects to the Chief Superintendent of the NCS, Mr. John Olutola, who is representing the Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Mr. Elton Edorhe.”
Edorhe confirmed taking over the suspects as well as the other items.
He, however, assured the navy that as they have taken over the suspects, they would do proper documentation on the seized goods, investigate the matter further with a view to prosecuting the offenders.
“I can assure you that as we have taken over those suspects and the exhibits, we will do proper documentation, investigate and prosecute.
“The smugglers were just adamant; otherwise, I believe by now they would have desisted from the illicit trade,” he said.