Operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) attached to Ogun Area 1 Command have shot and killed a suspected smuggler at Adisba, along Idiroko – Ota road, Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
In recent times, Customs officials have been fingered in several cases of extra-judicial killings of suspected smugglers and innocent Nigerians especially in Ogun and Lagos States. In January 2018, NCS officials attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja, shot dead a man at the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State. The officers were reportedly chasing a danfo bus containing suspected smuggled rice from Sango Ota, Ogun State, and opened fire, resulting in the death of the unarmed civilian. Less than 24 hours after the Abule-Egba incident, a pregnant woman, Olugunna Bukola, was shot by officials of the service at Iyana Iyesi, Ota in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State. Also in November 2018, Customs officials killed an unarmed 25-year old man identified as Kehinde at an area called Ebute along Ilaro-Ojodan, Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The same month, a lady identified as Mrs. Patience Oni was fell by Customs bullets while several other bystanders were injured at Forte Oil Filling Station near popular Badagry Roundabout in Lagos state. The killer Customs officers, operating under the code name “anti-flying”, were raiding an alleged illegal rice depot near the filling station in the afternoon on Tuesday November 22, 2018 when they started shooting indiscriminately into the air. A stray bullet hit and killed Mrs. Oni.
In September this year, two persons were crushed to death by a vehicle being chased by Customs officials at Akinale, a sleepy village in the Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State; while last month, an innocent student of Ojomo Community High School in Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State was killed and two others seriously injured by a reckless Customs officer driving an official vehicle.
Customs officials have also been fingered in extra-judicial killings in Benin, Jigawa, Katsina and other parts of the country.
Concerned by the development, the Yewa Traditional Council in Ogun State earlier this year issued a statement to condemn what it termed “the incessant killing of members of the community” by Customs operatives.
The Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, speaking on behalf of the Council, said, “I don’t know when a bag of rice becomes a valuable item than the life of any human being.”
“The question is how did contraband goods get to town considering the number of checkpoints along the border axis?” he asked. He said the Yewa Traditional Council was “not only speaking the minds of the Yewa people but the minds of Nigerians” on the incessant Customs killings.
Speaking on the latest killing of a suspected smuggler, Public Relations of the Command, Abdulahi Maiwada, in a statement made available to journalists, said the incident occurred in the early hours of Monday when the smuggler was attempting to disarm an officer in a physical battle.
According to him, “Officers of the Command on routine patrol intercepted a vehicle conveying prohibited items suspected to have been smuggled into Nigeria. At the initial stage, the suspected smuggler conveying the aforementioned items took to his heels and later mobilised his compatriots for a mob action against lawful officers.
“In the process, the suspected smuggler and owner of the smuggled items engaged an armed officer in physical battle in a bid to disarm him. In the ensuing struggle, the officer appropriately exercised his superior power in self defence leading to the death of the yet to be identified smuggler.”
He said the body of the deceased has been deposited in an undisclosed mortuary, while the exhibit has been secured in the government warehouse pending further investigation.
Maiwada advised members of the public to avoid confrontations that may lead to such avoidable incident, stating that the rules of engagement permit a customs official to defend himself “when his live is evidently in danger”.