Some personnel of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, have disclosed that they had given out bribes to villagers and smugglers in remote villages of Cross River State to become free from their captivity.
They disclosed this over the weekend at a two-day workshop funded by UK agencies for the Nigeria Customs Service personnel on how to combat illegal wildlife trade.
Mrs Abimboka Animashaun, who was the key resource person and Intelligence officer of the service, asked the personnel to list their challenges at their duty posts in the state.
Some mentioned how, on several occasions, they were held captive and their lives threatened in some remote and riverine villages in the state.
Those assigned to Ikang border station in Bakassi LGA of the state said one day, they had alerts that there were heightened smuggling activities in Idibe village as well as Obutong village.
"We were told that foreign rice, wildlife and other contrabands normally pass through Idibe and nearby villages, or are stocked there. We mobilised and entered Idibe village. It is very remote. We did not have military cover. Military presence has been reduced. They are not giving us adequate cover. We were not well armed.
"Initially, the people were receptive but suddenly became hostile and blocked all entry or escape routes from the village, and said we were not leaving. We had witnessed such situations before. We only had to play along and had to bribe them in order to be free", one of the officials explained.
He said despite reported surrender of arms and remorse by some militants groups to both the state and federal governments few months ago, there were still some militant activities which give support to the smugglers.
"And so, since military presence has been reduced, fear has not allowed us to operate into such border villages.
"We would need military protection to be able to access these remote villages and creeks.
"Besides, there are also fewer checkpoints in the night, leaving the way free for robbers and smugglers to operate."
They also lamented hazards and lack of mobility to patrol the Mfum border with Cameroon and nearby creeks, and that the need for reward arrangements as well as tips for informants were critical for service delivery.