Following the bloody clash between officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) attached to the Ogun Area Command and suspected smugglers which reportedly left no fewer than six persons dead on Sunday, Public Relations officer of the command, Usman Abubakar said the alleged mastermind of the attack has been arrested.
Confirming the incident to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Abubakar said the suspect, identified as Gbenro Oke has been handed over to police for further investigation.
He said contrary to media reports, only two persons were confirmed dead after the incident.
Narrating the circumstances that led to the attack, he said, “Our men were attacked by suspected smugglers on Sunday at Oke Odan after two vehicles were intercepted at Ajilete checkpoint with smuggled rice.
“Our officers were on their way taking the seized vehicles to Idiroko for safe keeping but to their surprise they were attacked by suspected smugglers at Oke Odan. The smugglers barricaded the road making it impossible for our officers to access. They were armed with dangerous weapons from dane guns to cutlasses, machete and even charms and shooting at our officers in a bid to retrieve the seized vehicles.
“So our officers had to call for reinforcement at Ajilete checkpoint and some policemen and the military. During the chaos, two people were confirmed dead while three of our officers were severely injured. They burnt down three of our checkpoints. We have arrested the mastermind of the attack and handed over to the police for further investigation,” he said.
He absolved officers from any wrong doing in the attack saying that they usually exercise caution when using firearms but had to defend themselves in the face of aggression.
He noted that those who died in the attack died as a result of stray bullets, which could have come from the smugglers as they were the ones shooting at the officers.
“Our officers are always cautioned from using their arms but when you are carrying arm and somebody is attacking you, what will you do?
“They were shooting at Customs sporadically, so you can hardly know who killed somebody because they were the ones shooting at our men,” he said.
He said despite sensitizing the border communities on the dangers inherent in smuggling especially on the recent policy that banned importation of rice through the land borders, smugglers have remained recalcitrant.
He however assured that Customs would not relent in its fight against smuggling.
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