The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has identified and arrested members of a syndicate that took up the activity of importing foreign rice and rebagging it as local rice.
The Adamawa/Taraba Command of the NCS which achieved the feat, also seized 150 bags of foreign rice concealed under 300 bags of beans in a truck conveying the consignment.
The Zonal Controller of the Command, Karmadeen Olumoh, who addressed newsmen on the developments on Tuesday, said the rice rebagging syndicate comprises 15 members who specialize in emptying bags of foreign rice into Nigeria-branded bags and passing them off as local rice.
The Customs controller said the practice, indulged mainly to beat efforts to control sale of foreign rice in Adamawa markets, contravenes Federal Government’s rice import ban and actually frustrates moves by the Customs Service to mop up foreign rice from the markets.
Karmadeen Olumoh who conducted newsmen to the rice rebagging warehouse in Yola, told the newsmen, “In our continuous efforts towards sustaining the fight against smuggling, officers and men of the Adamawa/Taraba Command, in conjunction with Federal Operation Unit and Taskforce, stumbled on this warehouse.
“What we have here is foreign parboiled rice smuggled into the country. What they are doing here is to repackage. They open the bags of foreign rice and empty them into local-branded bags.
“We have here about 900 bags of rice, each 50 kg. The duty paid value is M14.5 million.
We have arrested 15 suspects, including the manager, the warehouse owner and 12 labourers.”
In a separate development, packed at the NCS Adamawa/Taraba Command in Yola on Tuesday was a truck containing bags of rice and beans.
The truck was seized from people who passed the consignment as 450 bags of beans, but which contained more foreign rice than supposed locally grown beans.
Explaining findings by his men, the Customs Zonal Controller said, “They told us that the vehicle had 450 bags of beans, but after 100% inspection, we found that there were 300 bags of beans piled over 150 bags of imported rice.
‘Each of the 150 bags of rice contains 150 kg, which means we have three 50kg bags of rice in one bag. So, what we are seeing is 450 bags of rice. In total, we have 300 bags of beans and 450 bags of rice, each 50kg.
“Total paid value for the rice is N7.2 million. For the beans, its N3 million. We have three suspects.”
He said smuggled rice still get into Adamawa State because it had been impossible to seal the borders completely, but that his zone would continue to fight against smugglers until the state is made 100% no-go area for them.