The tanker was intercepted by the Ogun State Area Command of the Customs over the weekend.
Twenty-five other vehicles, loaded with smuggled bags of rice, were also intercepted along the land borders in some parts of Ogun State.
The agency expressed worries over the new trends and sophistication smuggling activities is assuming as the yuletide approaches.
Specially Built For Smuggling
Rice smuggling through Benin border has increased since recession hit Africa’s largest economy, a situation that has pushed the price of a bag of rice up to double its usual price.
In Benin Republic a bad of rice still sells for less than 14,000 Naira but in Nigeria the price of the same quality of rice is not sold be less than 20,000 Naira.
Briefing reporters about the special tanker discovery at the command’s Idiroko border office, the new Area Controller, Hassan Gangua, said the MAN diesel petroleum tanker with number plate FST 51 XE, was specially built for smuggling.
He said the tanker filled to capacity with the smuggled rice was intercepted by customs operatives of the command along the Idiroko border axis on its way to Lagos.
“This interception was made 24 hours after my arrival by our gallant officers. They arrested one petroleum tanker filled to capacity with imported rice along the Idiroko axis of the command.
“The arrest was also made of 25 vehicles loaded with smuggled rice also along the same route,” he explained.
The Area Controller said another trailer allegedly carrying about 500 bags of rice, was intercepted along Lagos -Sagamu interchange.
He said: “The illegal goods which were neatly packed were heading to the Eastern part of the country to be sold in the open market. Right now , three suspects – Anthony Nwakpa, 60, Osunkwo Chukwu, 32 and Hyginus Igbokwe – have been apprehended in connection with the seizure and are in customs custody, while preliminary investigations are ongoing”.
Giving a breakdown of other seizures made, the Customs official said four vehicles loaded with 4,000 cartons of frozen poultry products and 19 motorcycles used for smuggling of rice were intercepted.
The poultry products have been destroyed by burning and burial, he told reporters.
“The vehicles and motorcycles and the rice are currently in the premises of the command, awaiting evacuation to the government warehouse, while the frozen poultry products have since been destroyed by burning and burial,” he said
The command has stepped up its operations, as the yuletide approaches “in order to combat the menace of the smugglers and bring their activities down to the barest minimum in order to ensure a healthy society for the state and the nation at large.
Critics have, however, stressed that the high cost of rice in Nigeria would encourage smuggles to do whatever they could to get cheaper rice that Nigerians can afford especially as the yuletide is approaching at a period of recession.