Uyo — The Nigerian Navy in Akwa Ibom has arrested 12 suspects in three different operations for allegedly smuggling 708 bags of 50kg rice into the country.
The 12 suspects, who included a deaf and dumb person, were nabbed by operatives of the Forward Operating Base (FOB), Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of the state, alongside the wooden boats allegedly used to smuggle the rice during a routine patrol around the Effiat waterways.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Captain Peter Yilme said yesterday in Ibaka during the hand-over of the suspects and items to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) that smugglers were devising new ways of evading arrest but that the Navy will not relent in curtailing the illegal trade.
He said when one of the three arrested groups was accosted by Navy gunboats, the suspects dug holes in their boat to take in water and sink it.
Yilme, who was represented by the Base Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Yusuf, noted that with the continuous arrests, smuggling activities have reduced, adding that the Navy was also tackling sea pirates.
Receiving the 12 suspects and 708 bags of rice from the Nigerian Navy, Deputy Superintendent of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Alabi Adedokun commended the Navy for the cooperation existing between them, and for the regular arrests.
Two of the suspects, who are siblings from Ondo State, said the desire to survive pushed them into smuggling rice.
They said they were fishermen in Cameroon but since their trade was not bringing in money for them to cater for their families, they had to resort to smuggling rice, adding that the owner of the rice promised to pay them N15,000 each.
One of the brothers, Badebo Orofio said, "I and my elder brother are working together and this is our first time in smuggling rice; we have not been doing this before. There are no other jobs for us to do so our Oga told us to bring the rice to Nigeria, that he will take care of everything.
"I just started working with him for two weeks now and he promised to pay me N15,000 to bring the rice from Cameroon to Nigeria," he said.