The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Tin Can Island Command, Tuesday revealed its seizure of 54 containers of various contraband items. Of the seizure, 33 containers were loaded with expired foreign rice.
The rice, mostly rotten and oozing offensive odour, was part of other contraband items worth N2.713 billion seized by the command. The 54 containers comprise of 15 40ft containers, while the other 39 were 20ft containers.
The rice consignment, for instance, Master Rice has its date of packaging and expiration as May, 2016 and March, 2019 respectively; Fragrant rice, packaged in October, 2018, with an expiration date on October, 2019, where both imported from Thailand; while Jasmine rice which was packaged on September, 2018, with expiration date on September, 2020, was imported from China.
Interestingly, the seized rice bagged in 50 kg sacks, had inscription of Nigerian companies. For instance, in some of the packed rice, named ‘Master Rice,’ was packed for Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited, with its address as 31A, Remi Fani Kayode street, GRA, Ikeja. Another of such consignment, ‘Jasmine Rice’, had the inscription “packed for Yumfei International Trading Company Limited, with address as 103, Ebittu Ukiwe Street, Jabi, Abuja.
The Nation observed that one of the 40 foot containers was fully loaded with fresh, empty 50kg bags with new dates inscribed on it.
The implication is that these empty bags were to be used for re-bagging of the expired rice.
Briefing the press at the Customs examination ground of the Tin Can Island Port, Tuesday, the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, retired, listed other seized items to include one container of rice concealed with spare parts, 11 containers of unregistered pharmaceutical products, two containers of used tyres, one container of used clothing and four containers of refined vegetable oil in retail packs.
He said the containers were seized in line with the provisions of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C45 LFN 2004 sections 46 and 161.
The Customs boss added that efforts are on to arrest the persons behind the smuggling going by the various addresses on the bags of rice and contacts on importation documents.
“One significant thing about this seizure is that all the rice has expired or about to expire. Also remarkable is the seizure of variants and unregistered performance enhancing drugs among the pharmaceutical. No doubt, those who imported these dangerous items do not wish us well. Imagine if they had succeeded in getting the expired rice in, re-bagged and changed the expiration date for Nigerians to consume,” a visibly livid Alli said.
The Customs boss, revealed that since the inception of the border closure operation, named “Operation Ex Swift”, remarkable seizures have been recorded across the various facets of its operations. He explained that the Service is aware that the partial closure of the land border has resulted in the diversion of some cargoes back to the nation’s seaports.
Investigations confirmed Alli’s position on this.
With the continued closure of the land borders without any hope of reopening soon in sight, consignments meant for Nigerian markets are now being routed back through the Nigerian seaports, and for this, Alli draws satisfaction, especially as it has increased the Service’s revenue collection for the country.
“Realising that there may be possible backslash to the closure of the land borders, I directed all seaports and airports to beef up their surveillance and intercept any illicit and prohibited consignment for which attempt for their smuggling may be made through these entry points. This decision was made considering that those consignments may have been paid for and the importers will devise means to ensure they are delivered to their warehouses in Nigeria,” he said.