Uyo — About a week, after the Nigerian Navy operating in Akwa Ibom State arrested five persons with 444 bags of rice, the navy has again seized 828 bags of rice said to be contraband items.
Although no arrest was made in the latest operation, the Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area of the state, Captain Yusuf Idris, said yesterday that besides the 828 bags of rice, two 40 horsepower outboard engines and a pumping machine were been seized.
The suspects were said to have fled on sighting the naval patrol boat, and to escape the long hand of the law, decided to abandon the contraband items and the boat used in the illicit business at the bank of Mbo river.
Captain Idris, who handed over the seized items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Ibaka, disclosed that the rice was transported into the country from the Republic of Cameroon.
He regretted that in spite of tight security on the country's waterways, smugglers have not still learnt their lessons, stressing that the command will continue to hunt the merchants of the contraband rice and other bound items into the country.
While officers and men of the Nigeria navy are out to carry out their legitimate duties, Idris warned that they would not tolerate anybody or groups, however powerful they may be, to rob the Nigerian Government of its legitimate earnings.
According to him, "Like we have always said in line with the harmonised standard procedures, I am handing over 828 bags of rice suspected to be smuggled into the country from the Republic of Cameroon. The seizure was effected by the men of the FOB Ibaka on patrol around Mbo river at about 20:48hours last Saturday.
"These arrests happened almost at two days interval. We have told and warned them to stay away from contraband. This arrest shows the commitment on the part of security agencies that we will continue to hunt for them as we have warned severely that this country will not be robbed of its entitlement by anybody.
"I believe they have seen that we are undeterred; we are always out there to hunt them whenever they are carrying out their illegality.
"And as always, we keep promising legitimate business owners in our maritime environment of our continuous support and protection. I am sure those doing legitimate business have no cause to complain."
Receiving the items, the Customs Assistant Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Garko, praised the Nigerian Navy for its unwavering support in fighting smuggling within the Nigerian maritime territory.