The Nigeria Customs Service, on Wednesday announced the seizure of 34 containers of rice smuggled through the Tin Can Island port in Lagos.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali (retd), disclosed this, adding that despite the ban on rice importation, some people were still smuggling the product into the country.
He said one of the rice containers was concealed by its importers as spare parts.
Ali stated that in addition to the 34 containers of rice, the service intercepted 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, bringing the total of items seized to 52 containers.
He put the value of duty paid on the seized goods at N2.7 billion and attributed the seizure to the recent closure of the land borders, which he said had prompted importers of banned items to route them through the seaports.
His words:“Specifically, we are aware that the partial closure of the land borders has resulted in the diversion of some cargoes back to our seaports.
“While we welcome this development, which no doubt will boost revenue, improve our trade facts and figures and sustain our diversification efforts, we have also recorded a number of seizures of unwholesome products, which otherwise would have been smuggled through the borders.
“Realising that there may be possible backlash to the closure of the land borders, I directed all seaports and airports to beef up surveillance and intercept any illicit and prohibited consignments for which attempts 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 entry means to ensure they are delivered to their warehouses in Nigeria.”
Ali, who disclosed that the smuggled rice originated from Thailand said some of them had expired, stressing that rice importation, both through the sea and land is prohibited.
He revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) had not issued Form M since 2015 for the importation of rice through the seaports, not ing that any foreign rice in the country was smuggled.
The Customs CG said he had directed a full investigation to bring all those behind the rice importation to book.
He commended the Tin Can Island Command of the agency, saying it had generated N286.7 billion revenue from January till date.