The Navy’s Forward Operating Base at Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has arrested five suspected rice smugglers.
Navy officials also seized 444 bags of smuggled rice, besides a 52-foot canoe, two 40 BP Yamaha outboard engines, water pumping machine, fire extinguisher and 80 empty drums.
The Commanding Officer of the base, Navy Captain Yusuf Idris gave the names of the suspects as: Victor Esin, 30; Uchenna Lozoigbo, 34; Emmanuel Bassey, 25; Godwin Ating, 34 and Charles James.
Idris said the suspects were arrested during their mid-journey into the Nigerian territorial waters.
The naval officer said the suspects and the seized items had been handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for further investigation and prosecution.
He warned smugglers to desist, saying the navy would not relent in apprehending and hand over suspects to appropriate agency for prosecution.
Idris said: “In line with the harmonised standard procedures, the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base at Ibaka is here with our sister agency from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to hand over 444 bags of rice, which are believed to have been smuggled into the country from Cameroon, with five crew members on board the vessel.
“The existing synergy between the navy and the NCS is very cordial; both sides are willing, undeterred and ever ready to collaborate in our efforts to rid the Nigerian maritime environment of illegalities and criminal activities.
“It is in that spirit today that I will also be handing over these items and suspects to the Chief Superintendent of the NCS, Mr. John Olutola, who is representing the Comptroller, Eastern Marine Command, Mr. Elton Edorhe.”
Edorhe confirmed taking over the suspects as well as the other items.
He said: “I can assure you that as we have taken over those suspects and the exhibits, we will do proper documentation, investigate and prosecute.
“The smugglers were just adamant; otherwise, I believe by now they would have desisted from the illicit trade.”