By Gboyega Oni
The Nigeria Customs Service has said that its warehouses across the country are still filled up with thousands of bags of rice despite the tonnes of rice that were dispatched to the camps of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo States.
National Public Relations Officer of the Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah disclosed this in Lagos last week and attributed it to the sustained onslaught against rice smugglers by the anti-smuggling unit of the Customs.
He noted that the loads of rice in the Customs warehouses are either awaiting court condemnation/forfeiture to the Federal Government or have been already allocated to governments of the states where the IDPs are.
According to Attah, “despite tonnes of rice and other items already transferred to the IDPs, Nigeria Customs Service warehouses across the country are still filled with rice. This only shows that the sustained onslaught against unrepentant rice smugglers continues to yield positive results. The ones in the warehouses now are either awaiting court condemnation/forfeiture to the Federal Government or have been already allocated to government of the affected states who pay the army corps of transport and logistics for their transportation to the IDPs.”
Attah noted that in the last 22 months since the federal government directed the Nigeria Customs to release all seized rice and other perishable items to the IDPs, a total of 252,666 bags of rice (421 trailers), 50kg; 82,140 jerricans of 25l of vegetable oil, 19,491 cartons of soap and other items have been distributed to the affected states.
“Eventually, the seized rice and other perishable items presently in the warehouses will be given to fellow Nigerians affected by the unfortunate insurgency in the North-East,” he submitted.
Speaking on challenges confronting the Service in managing seizures, Attah said condoning and restricting unauthorized access; transporting the goods from point of interception to customs station; mechanical and/or terrain that makes movement difficult; crowd control/crisis management – injuries/death; on and off loading etc are big challenges being confronted by the Service in managing seizures.
He noted that despite these challenges, the Service would not relent in the fight against smuggling.