The Nigerian Navy (NN), Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, in Mbo Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, has vowed to take the fight against smuggling in the riverine area of the state to the communities.Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Peter Yilme, stated this yesterday while parading suspected smugglers before journalists in Ibaka.
According to him, this new approach would mean the operating base liaising with the communities to fish out the perpetrators before they venture into the sea for the illegal trade.Yilme, who spoke while parading 12 suspected smugglers, 1,072 bags of 50kg smuggled rice and two wooden boats seized from them, said their arrests were made in two different operations, and that the Navy was determined to end smuggling on the waterways.
The commander, represented by Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Yusuf of the FOB, said the two arrests involved eight suspects with 536 bags of rice, and four suspects with another 536 bags of rice.Deputy Superintendent of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alabi Adedokun, who received the suspects and the seized items, commended the Navy for the co-operation existing between them.
“On behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), I, Alabi Adedokun take over the 12 defendants and 1,072 bags of foreign parboiled rice. On behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service, we thank you very much.
Meanwhile, two of the suspects, a Cameroonian pastor, Samuel Gregory with Hope of Assurance in Christ Ministry International, and a Malian, Amadu Bello Jalo, said they were innocent of the crime as they were only passengers on the boats.Samuel Gregory said: “I came from Cameroon to attend a programme in Nigeria organised by Prophet Omotola Jeremiah in Owerri. I never knew the boat I was entering carried some illegal goods. I only found out when we landed off shore that the boat was carrying some illegal goods. This is my first time of coming to Nigeria.”
Also, Amadu Bello Jalo, a carpenter in Cameroon, said he was on his way to Mali to visit his sick mother and had to pass through Nigeria, adding that he boarded the apprehended boat because he did not have enough money to take a speedboat.He said: “I am a Malian and engage in carpentry work in Cameroon. I learnt that my mother was sick and was told to come home. I wanted to board a flying boat but I was told that the fare is N20,000 but since I didn’t have the money, the man said he would put me on a boat if I could give him N10,000. I did and he put me into the boat carrying illegal rice. I did not know that it was a crime to carry rice and that the rice was smuggled.”