Lagos - The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Monday said that its men had intercepted a vessel carrying over 5,000 bags of rice valued at N50 million.
Mr Dan Ugo, the Controller of Customs, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos.
According to Ugo, the vessel was intercepted on the high sea between Republic of Benin and Agbara around 3.00 am on Sunday by the customs patrol team.
``The seizure was in line with the NCS's efforts in trying to reduce smuggling through the Nigerian borders and canals,’’ he said.
Ugo said that the service had strengthened its operations in tacking the menace of smuggling of rice into the country and was determined to ensure that such dubious acts were checked.
``We will tow the vessel from the high sea, but we have to reduce the contents by smaller boats to fast-track the evacuation.
``We have competent, skilled personnel and all it takes to handle this kind of operation,’’ he said.
Ugo expressed regret that no arrest was made as all occupants of the vessel escaped by jumping into the sea.
``It is unfortunate that we could not make any arrest. The people in the vessel jumped into the water immediately,’’ he said.
He said the Federal Operations Unit would collaborate with the Western Marine Command to reduce smuggling to the barest minimum.
Mr Zakka Audu, the Controller of Customs in the Western Marine Command, who was at the site of evacuation of the consignment, commended the officers for maintaining 24 hours patrol.
He warned importers to desist from smuggling and evading payment of duties.