The zonal controller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘C’ Owerri, Imo State, Mr. Olusemire Kayode, has said smugglers have devised new means of concealing and transporting smuggled rice and other contrabands in cement trucks and containers.
Olusemire stated this weekend in Owerri while briefing journalists on the seizure of 2,430 bags of 50kg bags of smuggled foreign rice including 430 bags concealed with cement bags in a cement truck made by men of the service.
Also confiscated included 563 bales of second-hand clothing, used tyres and soap, second hand foot wears, used fridges all bearing a duty paid value (DPV) of over N75 million.
Comptroller Olusemire also displayed a black coloured Avalon (Ship) saloon car with registration number Lagos BDG 266 EE loaded with 21 sacks of cannabis sativa (aka Indian hemp) and concealed with wedding gift wrappers which men of the unit impounded at the Onitsha Head Bridge following a tip-off.
According to the Customs boss, the smugglers were intercepted in various locations within the FOU Zone C particularly, Enugu, Onitsha, Owerri, Aba and Port Harcourt axis of the unit, using trucks belonging to a cement company to conceal the contraband.
He explained that the driver of one of the cement trucks had loaded his truck with 430 bags of rice and covered it some bags of cement and with tarpaulin to disguise it as a cement consignment.
Olusemire added that the customs men, who had got the hint of their illegal activities through intelligence, intercepted the truck coming out from the creeks of Port Harcourt.
On how his men apprehended the Avalon car loaded with Indian hemp, Olusemire said the vehicle which was impounded at the Onitsha overhead bridge had, prior to the arrest, regularly plied the Owerri/Onitsha road daily around 4pm with the exhibits.
“However, acting on a tip-off, our men trailed the vehicle, snapped the number plate and nemesis eventually caught up with the driver who quickly jumped out of the vehicle and took to his heels upon a hot chase at the Onitsha overhead bridge where the vehicle was seized”.
Olusemire who displayed other seized items at the Enugu premises of the NCS, reiterated the service’s readiness to tackle smuggling activity in the zone and cautioned Nigerians still engrossed in the illicit business of smuggling to desist forth with.
He said his men were now set to raid warehouses in markets across the zone to fish out smuggled goods that evaded arrests. “Henceforth, we’ll begin to raid warehouses and markets because we cannot continue to allow smuggling to thrive because of its adverse effect on the nation’s economy and individuals whose goods were seized. You can see the number of vehicles that we seize in the course of this job. We don’t feel happy doing it.
“People should know that smuggling is not a decent business and that it has adverse effect on our economy. We are ready and prepared to deal with all those who have stubbornly refused to purge themselves of this because we are now better trained, equipped and mobilized to neutralize their antics.
“It is disgusting, morally embarrassing and obscene for any Nigerian to indulge in smuggling because of the obvious adverse effect on our economy. Most of the items being smuggled in can be produced here locally to boost our economy” he stated.
Comptroller Olusemire was particularly worried that the continued smuggling of second hand clothings had continued to stifle the growth of local industries including textile mills across the country.
He said that 3 suspects arrested in connection with the exhibits had been charged to court and had been granted administrative bail. The smugglers are losing daily and we have been advising and sensitizing people about the adverse effects of smuggling.