The death in a road accident, last Thursday, of seven personnel of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) attached to the Ports Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML), Tin-Can Island Port and Seme Border area commands is generating angst in the Service.
The officers died in an accident at Sagamu, Ogun State, on their way to the Customs Headquarters in Abuja, allegedly following an emergency summons by the Assistant Comptroller-General in charge of Enforcement and Drugs.
It was gathered that the signal for the trip was allegedly sent out at about 400pm that fateful Thursday.
It was learnt that the signal had summoned all personnel of the affected area commands’ Examination Unit, from the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Customs down, to Abuja for a parade.
Consequently, according to sources, the affected personnel promptly chartered a commercial bus to convey them to Abuja.
It was learnt that the journey, however, terminated tragically at Sagamu, when the bus rammed into a stationary truck, killing the occupants of the medium-sized bus.
News of the premature death of the seven Customs personnel, since it broke, has been generating anger against the leadership of the Service, which is being blamed by the colleagues of the deceased for allegedly causing their deaths.
The deceased, according to their colleagues, were “wasted,” as they noted that whatever the purpose for their abortive journey could have been resolved without their leaving their various bases.
A number of speculations have been linked to the circumstances of the death of the seven.
On the one hand, it was learnt that deceased summons to Abuja allegedly owed an incident of an officer in the Examination Department at the Tin-Can Island Port Area Command, who, last month, allegedly released a container, whose content was registered as toys but was later discovered to be carrying contraband wine.
The grieving Customs personnel maintained that, rather than the summons to the deceased to present themselves in Abuja, the Customs Headquarters could have leveraged on the NCS computer network to fish out the officers involved in the alleged scam.
A particularly-embittered officer stated: “They did not need to summon all of us to Abuja over such issue. Now, they have caused the death of these officers over nothing!”
On the other other hand, the death of the seven is fanning speculations that the NCS wanted to pick officers for an emergent National Task Force about to be formed by the Customs Headquarters.
As one officer put it: “If it is the National Task Force, they would have asked our Comptrollers to submit names of officers. Must we travel to Abuja for everything? Did they give us any money to facilitate our movement and stay in Abuja? Now, these officers have died; that is their end. Nobody is going to say anything about them again. The families they left behind will now begin to suffer.”
Reacting to the incident, the Customs Public Relations Officer of PTML Area Command, Chief Superintendent Steve Okoma, said that the Customs Headquarters had the right to summon any officer when the need arises.
He said that the signal that ordered the officers to Abuja came last Tuesday and not last Thursday, noting that there were other officers who travelled by road and still got to Abuja safely.
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