Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Friday stormed Ayetoro in Yewa North Local Government area of Ogun State shooting sporadically, “as if they have been ordered to wipe out the community”, a resident said.
Ayetoro is an agrarian community and home to one of the oldest public high schools in the country – the Comprehensive High School Ayetoro.
A source in the community said the Customs officials threw caution into the wind after an argument with some residents of the community over alleged smuggling.
The source, who is also a resident in the area, said the NCS officials stormed the community with four Toyota Hilux vehicles loaded with heavily armed Customs operatives and started “shooting continuously into the air”.
The action of the Customs officials, according to another source, angered the youths in the community who mobilized themselves to resist the Customs aggression. This led to a violent face-off, leading to the burning of three of the Hilux vehicles.
A youth in the area was also shot and injured by the Customs officials.
“It lasted like a normal argument between a man and a customs officer at Oke Rori, here in Ayetoro. They had few minutes of argument after which military men and residents waded into the issue and it was resolved.
“About an hour time, four Hilux vans, with fully armed customs officers entered our community and they started shooting anyhow in the air. After several attempts to stop them became fruitless, the youths in the area then faced them and they started shooting at the people,” the resident said.
“They were shooting like they have been ordered to wipe out the community. If you see the way they were shooting, it was like a war zone, like they have been told to kill us all. If not because many of our youths are ‘fortified’, many would have been dead by now.
“If you go round the community, you will see people whose clothes were torn by the customs’ bullets, but the bullets didn’t penetrate their bodies; only for one guy ‘Solid Solid’ who was shot three times,” another resident of Ayetoro, who identified himself simply as Nojeeem, said.
Spokesman, Ogun Area 1 Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Hammed Oloyede, confirmed the incident.
Customs officials have found it fashionable to invade communities in the southwest region of Nigeria, killing unarmed residents in the name of fighting smuggling.
Just last month, Customs officials attacked Ibarapa community in Oyo State, killing three unarmed civilians who had nothing to do with smuggling. In May 2021, trigger-happy Customs officials killed five unarmed bystanders in Iseyin, Oyo State while on May 1, 2020, Rilwan Bello, a 15-year old junior secondary school student of Area Community High School, Owode, Ogun State was killed by Customs officials along Owode-Idiroko. In November 2018, the life of a 25-year old unarmed resident of Ebute, along Ilaro-Ojodan, Yewa North Local Government Area of the state was cut by Customs bullets.
Ayetoro itself is not new to extra-judicial killings by Customs officials. For instance, on December 22, 2020, a resident of Kikelomo area of Ayetoro, identified as Sola Soga was killed by Customs officials was not a smuggler.
In the face of the reckless attacks and extra-judicial killings by Customs officials in the south west, some traditional rulers in February 2019 called on the Federal Government to call the NCS to order. The Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, on behalf of other traditional rulers, decried the killings at a press conference.
“I don’t know when a bag of rice becomes a valuable item than the life of any human being. They should not take laws into their hands.
“They should seal up any property housing contraband goods rather than raiding shops which could lead to clash. The government has the power to confiscate anything. The question is how did contraband goods get to town considering the number of checkpoints along the border axis?
“We are not at war with the NCS. We demand justice and wants the perpetrators of these killings brought to book. We are not only speaking the minds of the Yewa people but the minds of Nigerians. The Federal Government and the NCS should improve on surveillance of the border lines areas,” Olugbenle said.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari, the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and other security agencies to urgently wade into the danger posed by the Customs operatives.
The Federal Government and the Nigeria Customs Service have, however, failed to heed the traditional rulers’ call as the killings have continued unabated.