The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Monday said that it would deploy drones in its border monitoring and surveillance activities targeted at curbing unbridled smuggling of prohibited foreign products, particularly rice, into the country.

The Deputy Comptroller-General, Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection, NCS, Aminu Dangalidima, who disclosed this during the release of 30 additional Toyota Hilux patrol vehicles to the Strike Force team of the Service, said that the new initiative would be implemented through collaboration with the Nigerian Air Force.

Dangaladima said that with the release of the vehicles, the Service was properly positioned to check the activities of rice smugglers.

He said: “The issuance of the vehicles is part of the Federal Government’s support to curtail smuggling of prohibited items, especially rice. With this robust support coming from the Federal Government, the Nigeria Customs Service is in a better position to deal ruthlessly with the enemies of Nigeria’s security and economic prosperity.

“With these vehicles, our response time at the scene of any smuggling activity will be swift and decisive”, the DCG added.

He warned men and officers of the Service who would use the vehicles not to compromise their professional integrity in the discharge of their duties.

The DCG clarified further: “We are using technology to check smuggling and this is part of it. We are even thinking higher than this. We are thinking of having drones and we are also thinking of trying to bring in the Air Force.

“We are also trying to have the un-manned aerial vehicles and others that can assist us; and all these are in progress”, he added.

According to him, once the Service is able to reduce the activities of smugglers, its revenue generation potential will be enhanced.

“We will be able to boost revenue generation once we are able to block leakages,” he assured.

The Federal Government had last week threatened to close Nigeria’s borders against one of the country’s neighbouring countries, which it pointed out had been largely responsible for smuggling of rice, to mitigate the menace of rice smuggling.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the disclosure in Abuja, said that the decision to close the land border had become imperative in order to encourage local production of rice and sustain the nation’s economy.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture

The minister lamented: “Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour of ours is importing more rice than China is importing.

“They do not eat parboiled rice (in that country); they eat white rice; and they use their ports to try and damage our economy. I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear that the border has been shut; we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy”, Ogbeh added