The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘C’ of the Nigeria Customs Service, Owerri, says it has confiscated 31 vehicles and seven trucks laden with rice worth N235.6 million smuggled into the country.
Mr Victor Dimka, the Area Controller of the Zone which comprises South-South and South-East states, , made this known on Monday when he took newsmen to the command’s office in Benin to inspect the goods.
He said the vehicles and the seven trucks containing 4,200 bags of rice were intercepted and impounded at different points in the zone.
Dimka recalled that the zone on March 13 impounded 5,085 bags of rice with duty paid value of N150 million, all totaling 9,285 bags of rice seized by the customs within three weeks.
“The price of the bags of rice is N160.44 million while the cost of the seized 31 vehicles is N75.19 million
“Five persons have been arraigned at different courts within the zone in connection with the seized goods and over 1,100 tyres concealed in saw dust were also impounded by my men.”
He expressed concern over the desperation of smugglers in perpetrating their evil acts, which he said made some smugglers to forge documents and shoot his men for carrying out their lawful duties.
The area controller expressed the determination of the zone to win the war against rice smuggling the way it did on poultry foods.
“Today, we are breaking the supply chain of rice smuggling in the zone as we did with poultry. We will not hesitate to shoot back at any smuggler who tries to kill our men in the course of their duty.
“The smugglers are becoming wiser and more desperate by the day. They now shoot at our officers while they are carrying out their lawful duty.
“We are saying this and giving this warning for the last time. We are not supposed to kill, but we will not watch and allow our men to die while on duty,” he said.
He advised Nigerians to always engage in genuine business, clear their goods with genuine documents with the customs and not with agents.
Dimka said that the command would would continue to sensitise the public to avoid purchasing smuggled goods.
“This is a wake-up call for everybody. We are trying our best. Everybody must rise up to fight this menace.
“Goods should not be brought in through an unapproved route and the duties unpaid for. The only genuine route to bring in goods is the ports,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the area controller also handed over 14 cartons of seized unregistered drugs (Tramadol Caps) to NAFDAC.
Receiving the drugs, the Chief Regulatory Officer of NAFDAC in Benin, Mrs Esther Itua, commended the customs for the seizure.
She said that investigations would be carried out while the drugs would be subjected to test to ascertain whether or not it is good for human consumption.
“Every drug is a potential poison until it is certified free by NAFDAC,” she said.