Naval personnel attached to the Nigerian Navy Ship Victory in Calabar have arrested a large wooden boat laden with 3,574 bags of foreign rice worth N53.6 million smuggled from Cameroon republic.
They also arrested three suspects found in the boat that came from Cameroon and heading for Calabar.
Commander of NNS Victory, Commodore Julius Nwagu, said on Thursday in Calabar that the arrest was made along the Calabar waterway in the early hours of February 27, when they got information about the activities of the suspected smugglers.
Addressing newsmen at the NNS Victory Jetty before handing over the items and suspects to the Nigerian Customs Service, Nwagu said that it took the command two and half days to offload the bags of rice from the wooden boat.
He said: “In the early hours of February 27, we got information about a boat laden with rice and my patrol team arrested the boat and three suspects on board. We brought the boat to base and offloaded the rice.
“It took us two and a half days to offload the content. After counting, we got 3, 574 bags valued at N53.6million.
“We will hand them over to the Nigerian Customs Service for further investigation and prosecution.
“I want to tell the general public that the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas will not leave any stone unturned in pursuing those involved in any form of criminality.
“We in the Eastern Naval Command, particularly NNS Victory, are all out to fight criminality at any level.’’
Joshua Omachi, the Calabar Area Assistant Comptroller of Customs in charge of Marine Command, who received the items and suspects, commended the Navy for the feat.
Omachi said that the rice would be evacuated to the government warehouse of the Customs Area Command in Calabar, while the suspects would be prosecuted.
One of the suspects, Moses Azazi, told the News Agency of Nigeria that they knew that what they had on board was a contraband.
Azazi said: “We were bringing the rice from Cameroon and were arrested by the Navy. We are aware it was a contraband.
“I don’t know the owner of the rice. We were just asked to transport it to Calabar from Kondo in Cameroon.’’