Border closure: Rice smugglers fake pregnancies, fuel tanks to evade arrest
• As cost of smuggling rise
Following the border closure of the Federal Government since August 2019, investigations have revealed that rice smugglers now adopt various degree of strategies, which include faking pregnancies and fuel tanks of motorcycles to beat the system.
This is even as findings revealed that cost of smuggling in a bag of rice has gone up from a thousand Naira per bag to three thousand Naira per bag.
According to investigations by the Tribune Online, rice smuggling neatly concealed under wrappers by women pretending to be heavily pregnant now thrives in many of the border towns in the South West region of the country.
“Many of these rice are however smuggled in small quantities depending on the quantity the supposed pregnant woman can move around with.
“These women strap small quantities of rice in their stomachs and tie wrappers that reveal their heavily bulging abdomen, pretending to be heavily pregnant.
Through this means, many of the small quantity of smuggled imported rice have been able to come into the country despite the border closure policy of the Federal Government.
“Imagine if we have about thirty to fifty women ready to walk across the borders from adjoining border communities, pretending to be heavily pregnant; that will amount to some bags of rice coming in despite the border closure.
“Yes, there are security operatives manning these routes these days, but many pregnant women are allowed in after showing valid means of identification.
“That is just one of the many ways rice smugglers now deploy to ensure they remain in business despite the border closure policy of Nigeria.
“Another style is the fuel tank system. In this regard, motorcycles popularly called ‘Okada’ will have their fuel tanks emptied and filled with rice grains to the brim. For communities close to the borders, a total of twenty motorcycles will have their tanks emptied and filled with rice grains. Then these motorcycles will have small jerry cans strapped to them with small quantity of fuel inside the kegs.
“These kegs will now have very thin hose connecting them to the motorcycle’s engine, thereby serving as the fuel tank. In this manner, the motorcycles are driven across the border and allowed in after proper Identification because they are not carrying any bag of rice on them.
“In some cases, the motorcyclists pretend as if the motorcycle is faulty, and they push them without starting the engine across the border. This happens in communities closely located along the borderlines. Many of such faulty motorcycle have grains of imported rice stored in their fuel tanks and are discharged once the motorcycle crosses the border into Nigeria.
“Of cause, because of the heavy security around the borders nowadays, to qualify to be a smuggler, you must possess a valid means of identification. Without a valid means of identification, nobody will approach you to help them cross rice into Nigeria.
“Also, due to all these procedures, the cost of rice smuggling has gone up a little bit. Before the border closure, a bag of rice is smuggled at a cost of one thousand Naira. So if a smuggler is able to cross 20 or 50 bags in one day, that is N20,000 or N50,000 earning per day.
“But now, with the increased security due to the border closure policy of Nigeria, crossing a bag now goes for three thousand Naira. So if a smuggler is able to cross ten bags a day, that is N30,000 earning for the day. The borders are now tighter, and the stakes are now higher,” a repentant rice smugglers told Tribune Online exclusively.
When contacted, the Spokesman of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Jerry Attah confirmed that eagled eyed security operatives have discovered the fuel tank strategy and have made arrests about a month ago.
He, however, declined knowledge of any arrest of fake pregnant women carrying smuggled rice in their ‘fake pregnancy’.
In the words of Jerry Attah, “Last month, we arrested some motorcycles with smuggled rice in their fuel tanks. The motorcycles had their fuel tanks filled with smuggled rice while a 5-litre keg with small quantity of fuel served as the motorcycles fuel tank.
“On fake pregnant women carrying smuggled rice in their pregnancy, I don’t have details of such arrest for now.”
Also speaking on the development, the Spokesman of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) who is also Spokesman for Operation Ex-Swift Response, the enforcement arm of Nigeria’s border closure policy, Deputy Controller of Customs Joseph Attah wondered at the desperation of Nigerians bent on smuggling in imported rice into the country.
“All the videos trending on social media where you see women stuffing smuggled rice in their abdomen and breast are true. That is what our men are facing at the border points of the country. You can imagine the extent people go through to beat the system at the border points as regards rice smuggling.
“We have arrested many women faking pregnancies by stuffing imported rice in their stomachs and breast just to beat the security operatives at the borders. What about people stuffing smuggled rice in the fuel tanks of motorcycles? You can imagine the desperation?” DC Joseph Attah told the Tribune Online exclusively.