A large wooden boat laden with three thousand bales of textile materials, twenty bags of shoes, one hundred bags of rice and ten cartons of substances suspected to be hard drugs were impounded on yesterday by the N N S Victory, Calabar.
Arrested along with the boat are twelve smugglers who brought the items from neighbouring Cameroon into Calabar for onward movement to markets in the south-south and southeast states.
Commodore Fredrick Ogu, the Commanding Officer NNS Victory who handed over the contrabands to the Nigerian Customs and the smugglers comprising seven Cameroonians and five Nigerians said his men accosted the boat in the high sea while on routine patrol as the boat was navigating its way into Calabar on Thursday night.
â€œThe Chief of Naval Staff has instructed us to bring illegal activities such as bunkering, pipeline vandalisation and piracy in the maritime zone under control and smuggling is an economic sabotage. So, my men had to arrest the boat and the smugglersâ€.
Commodore Ogu said he decided to hand over the contrabands to the men of Customs and the smugglers to the Nigerian Immigration Service since they are the agencies directly charged with the responsibility of handling such cases. â€œWe are often in the high sea and when we come across such criminals, we arrest them and hand them to the agencies charged with prosecuting themâ€.
The Commanding Officer restated the preparedness of the Nigerian Navy to combat criminal activities in Nigerian territorial waters, stating that smugglers and pipeline vandals would not have it easy engaging in such activities in the Calabar- Oron Cameroon water ways any longer.
Mr Samuel Oguche, the Comptroller Immigration Service in Calabar said the smugglers would be screened and those who are not Nigerians and have entered Nigeria illegally will be charged to court for prosecution.
â€œThere is a synergy among the different agencies of government and since we are working towards the same goal, we can achieve better result towards combating illegal movement into the countryâ€. Oguche said