The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, (FOB) Ibaka in Mbo, Akwa Ibom, has arrested six suspected smugglers, seized 1, 439 bags of smuggled rice between December 23, 2019, to January in the state.
Peter Yilme, the Commanding Officer of FOB, stated this while handing over the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service on Tuesday in Mbo Local Government Area of the state.
Mr Yime, a captain, said the command would remain steadfast in fighting illegalities on the waterways in line with the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas.
He, however, said that some of the suspects escaped on sighting the Navy gunboats.
He said the arrests were made along the Unyenge, Effiat, and Mendoro creeks between December 2019 and January by Navy officers and men on routine patrol in their gunboats.
“I handover 1, 439 bags of rice and six suspects to the Superintendent of Customs, Garuba Hassan in line with the directives of the Chief of Naval Staff.
“We are committed to rid the waterways of all forms of illegalities.
“I commend the untiring efforts of the officers and ratings in ensuring the mandate and tasks of the Base are achieved.
“I also appreciate the immense effort of the Chief of Naval Staff, for providing the necessary platform and logistics support for the Base to carry out its operations,” he said.
One of the suspects, Wede John, from Bayelsa, said that he usually transports fish and was carrying rice for the first time when he was arrested.
He said, “I don’t know the owner of the rice and didn’t know that rice was loaded into the boat. This is my first time of carrying rice.
“I usually transport crayfish and dry fish to Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom. I was carrying rice from Bakassi to Unyenge when I was arrested,” he said.
Another suspect, Awagoyi Philp, a boat driver said the owner of the rice promised to pay him N20,000 for carrying the rice but that he was yet to collect the money.
He said, “I drive boats and I was paid to drive the boat that carried the rice. This is my first time. The owner of the rice promised to pay me N 20, 000 and is aware that I have been arrested”.