The highest seizure of 8000 bags of rice was recorded in Lagos.
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, said on Friday that it intercepted 35,194 bags of smuggled rice in the last two months with Duty Paid Value of N213 million.
Wale Adeniyi, spokesman of the service, told reporters in Abuja that customs officers in different area commands across the country intercepted the contraband goods in March and in April. He said the highest seizure of 8000 bags of rice was recorded by the Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Lagos State, followed by another, involving 7,269 bags of rice, in the same zone.
“The first two seizures were made by a patrol team of Federal Operations Unit and these were operations that were conducted using intelligence cultivated by our officers and it is an operation that lasted for three weeks.
“Officers had to stay in a particular village monitoring movement on the creeks and monitoring movement of the smugglers before the seizure was made. The first one was about 7,000 bags of rice and the second one was about 8000 bags of rice. For you to get an idea of what 8,000 bags of rice is, we are talking of 14 trailer-loads of rice,’’ he said.
The seizures in Lagos State were made at a creek in Agbara near Egbede Village, Badagry and Yekeme creek, near Gbaje, also in Badagry.
Mr. Adeniyi also told newsmen that the service had been inundated with complaints from rice importers and distributors alleging wide scale smuggling of rice into the country.
“We want to acknowledge the fact that these are stakeholders in the Nigerian economy. A couple of them have invested lot resources into rice production and distribution. We believe that they have the right to raise this alert if they observe incidents of smuggling.
“But as a regulatory agency charged with the statutory function of dealing with the issue of smuggling we want to give a strong and firm reassurance that Nigeria Customs Service has been up to the task of ensuring that smuggled rice is kept out of our nation.”
Mr. Adeniyi noted that the service had been “constantly re-strategising” its methods to combat smuggling. He said the service now relied more on the use of “information and intelligence.”
“You will recall that we had to dismantle check points in the hinterland last year and we have focused our attention around the border areas and numerous creeks.
“Rice can now be only brought in legitimately through the seaport and because of that people who want to circumvent that fall back to using the creeks or the various porous entry points in the hinterland. So we now have to rely more on the use of information and intelligence to be a step ahead of smugglers,” he said.
Mr. Adeniyi said the service had also deployed air surveillance to curb smuggling since it acquired an aircraft for border patrol in 2012.
He said five suspects had been arrested in connection with incidents in the Federal Operations Unit Lagos), and its Zone B counterpart in Kano.
He said the Comptroller-General of Customs had constituted a task force to curb the smuggling of rice, adding that the task force had a direct link with the air fleet and regularly provided them with information on smuggling activities.
A breakdown of the seizures shows that the task force recorded 1,926 seizures at the Jimeta-Yola axis; 1,736 seizures in Katsina and 385 seizures in Oyo axis during the period under review. It also recorded 392 seizures in Niger State axis, 114 seizures in Sokoto.
In other seizures, the Seme Command of the service impounded 6,022 bags of rice at Seme border while the Oyo/Osun and Ogun commands recorded 3,355 bags of rice and 2,671 bags of rice, respectively.
Also the Federal Operations Unit covering Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano states posted 2,379 seizures, while the unit covering Owerri and Calabar recorded 636 seizures.