Calabar - Officers of the Nigerian Navy on Friday in Calabar arrested 12 suspected smugglers.
A wooden ship used by the suspects and which contained various items believed to be contraband was also impounded by the Navy personnel.
The Commanding Officer of NNS Victory, Naval Base in Calabar, Commodore Fredrick Ogu, handed the suspects over to the Nigeria Immigration Service authorities at the base.
He said the suspects were apprehended by a naval patrol team.
Ogu said the boat was conveying 3,000 bales of textile materials, 20 bags of shoes, 100 bags of rice and 10 cartons of substances suspected to be hard drugs.
“All these items will be handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service,” the naval officer said.
He said the suspected smugglers brought the items from abroad and planned to move them into markets in the South-South and South-East regions of the country.
“The Chief of Naval Staff has instructed us to bring illegal activities, such as bunkering, pipeline vandalism and piracy, in the maritime zone under control.”
“Smuggling is an economic sabotage. So, my men had to arrest the boat and the smugglers,” Ogu said.
The commanding officer said he decided to hand over the contraband to the Customs and the suspects to the Immigration since the agencies were directly responsible for such cases.
“We (the Navy) are often on the high sea, and when we come across such criminals, we arrest them and hand them over to the agencies charged with the responsibility to prosecute them,” he said.
Ogu assured that the Nigerian Navy was ever ready to combat criminal activities in Nigerian territorial waters.
“Smugglers and pipeline vandals will not have it easy engaging in such activities in the Calabar-Oron waterways,” he said.
Receiving the suspects, the Comptroller of Immigration Service, Samuel Igoche, said the suspects would be screened.
“Any one of them, who is not a Nigerian and has entered the country illegally, will be prosecuted,” he said.
Igoche said there was a synergy among agencies of government in combating illegal activities in the country.