Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Lagos, have arrested 12 smugglers in connection with 9,049 bags of foreign rice laden in 15 vehicles, exotic vehicles and other contraband valued at N1.34 billion. Within a month 14,565 bags of rice have been impounded by the unit in Lagos alone. Last month, 5,516 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50 kilogrammes each, were also seized.

The Comptroller of the unit, Mr. Mohammed Uba, said yesterday that the unit, through interventions, had recovered N59.5 million from under payment, leading to a cumulative of N1.40 billion in less than a month. Miffed by the incessant smuggling of rice, NCS has already handed out 20 Toyota Hilux patrol vehicles, from the 50 patrol vehicles it took delivery of this week, for anti rice smuggling patrols.

Uba listed other seizures by the anti-smuggling unit to include 271 bales of used clothes, 1,464 cartons of frozen poultry products, 870 jerry cans of vegetable oil, and 592 pieces of used tyres. He also explained that four containers marked PCIU 8501347/9, PCIU 8278544, FCIU 983753 and TGHU 6924330 valued at N648 million had been seized for false declaration. Uba noted that two of the containers were laden with 8,633 pieces of empty cylinders falsely declared as plumbing materials in their Single Goods Declaration (SGD). The comptroller added that the remaining two containers contained 120 bales of new jeans, falsely declared as punching machines.

He said: “In order to ensure full implementation of government policy banning the importation of rice through the land borders and following the headquarters’ directive on same, we re-strategized our operational modalities and beamed our searchlight at the creek, waterside and at various locations in South-West zones.” Uba noted that the strategy was responsible for the massive seizure of rice within the period.

The comptroller said that smuggling was a global phenomenon that could not be eradicated entirely but could be reduced to its barest minimum if all hands were on deck He added: “Let me commended our officers who have put their lives on line making the seizures, most especially the 15 trailers load of rice.”

The comptroller stressed that the spate of smuggling had made it impossible for government to have the correct statistics of the goods smuggled in and out of the country. The unit arrested 14 smugglers in connection with 30 vehicles and other contraband valued at N1.01 billion last month. Also, the service recovered N28.86 million from underpayments in the period. Uba said that the exotic vehicles seized in May were without Customs documents and were valued at N858.1 million.

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