Yemisi Ajayi, Ibadan
The Oyo/Osun Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has paraded a truck and two mazda buses loaded with smuggled rice.
Aside the truck, the Command also intercepted another four mazda buses conveying smuggled rice and kegs of foreign vegetable oil along Iseyin-Oyo road
The arrests which was done barely a month after the assumption of duty of a new area comptroller of the command was made at different border points in Oyo State
The Command Area Comptroller (CAC), Udo-Aka Emmanuel who supervised the counting of the smuggled items said a total of 853 bags of 50kg rice and 395 kegs of 25litres vegetable oil valued at hundreds of million naira were seized during two different operations.
According to the command, while the duty paid value (DPV) on the rice is N14,603,306, the DPV on the vegetable oil is N3, 076,159.
The customs boss however noted that no suspect was arrested yet as the drivers and conductors abandoned the vehicles and ran away on sensing that they have been trapped by the patrol team. He stressed that the command in its way also avoided unnecessary bloodshed but would rely on intelligence gathering to arrest the suspects.
He appealed to members of the public to willingly volunteer information on the activities of smugglers.
Udo-Aka while appealing to the media to help sensitise the members of the public on the implication of the menace of smuggling said smuggling does not only affect the economy but put the health of the people at risk insisting that the federal government ban on rice is still valid.
He lamented that the smuggled products are already expired haven stayed too long in the warehouse but relabelled and rebagged for the purpose of being smuggled into the country.
Giving a breakdown of the figures of the items, the CAC said the 12-tyre DAF truck with registration number MUS 203 XL had 600 bags while the Mazda buses with registration numbers XB 330 GBH; XF 571 NRK; RLG 123 XA and KJA 701 XJ were loaded with 200 bags each.
He said: “the smugglers took advantage of the recent mass deployment of officers and men in Nigeria Customs Service to indulge in their unwholesome activities with the belief that we will be caught off guard.
“We will continue to reiterate our stand on zero tolerance for revenue leakage and reduction of smuggling to the bearest minimum by bringing the economic saboteurs to book and face the long arm of the law.
“Our resolve to rid this axis of recalcitrant and unpatrotic Nigerians who engage in nefarious activities is a bond we must keep. The ban on importation of rice by the Federal Government through the land borders in order to transform and improve our agriculture sector is still in place, and Customs is committed to implementing this Federal Government policy to the letter.
“These seized bags of rice have been stored in warehouse in Benin Republic without proper pest control, making them prone to all manner of pest. We should also understand that most of these smuggled products have exceeded their shelf life and therefore expired and are not safe for consumption. Yet they are re-bagged and relabeled and dumped in our country.
“We also know that as long as smuggling thrives, our economy will never pick up; our industries will do well if smuggling is checked. Smuggling kills the economy but enriches the smuggler.
“We appeal to well-meaningful citizens of Nigeria to willingly assist in volunteering information about the smugglers, their agents and collaborators, and we promise to treat any given information with utmost confidentiality”
The new helmsman who noted that he has paid courtesy visit on all the state commands of security operatives as well as the traditional rulers in major border points of the state, upon his assumption maintained that the Command will build and sustain collaborative relationship with other security operatives and traditional institutions for better result.