No. There is no law in Nigeria that smugglers should be killed, talk less of a suspect. There is no institution of government that possess the power of prescribing a suspect guilty except a competent law court. Though, the military do ‘court martial’ officers and men within its force, the judiciary still retain and remain the legal authority and institution to determine whether a suspect is guilty or otherwise. If it is in self-defence, then the smuggler should be wielding a dangerous weapon, probably a gun, then, it won’t be termed extrajudicial killing.
No it is not justified. The Nigeria Customs Service is acting beyond its mandates for killing innocent citizens. They are only mandated by the law to arrest and arraign smugglers in their pursuit to protect national integrity. It is not part of their mandate to pursue smugglers to the town and start shooting. They are expected to fight smuggling, but they should avoid killing. Smugglers are expected to be arrested and not to be killed. They are not smugglers until you convict them in the court of law. The government should intervene and make necessary corrections in the Customs. In fact, it is better they go with their consignment than killing them. The Comptroller-General of Customs is not doing enough to checkmate their excesses.
This is becoming a norm by armed security personnel and what the operatives of Customs are doing is unreasonable. Public outrage over killings of innocent souls is frequently becoming the outcome of many battles between the men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the dreaded smugglers. There is need for the government to caution armed security personnel while on duty. For instance, I can remember the case that happened last year where the officers of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, in a move to attack rice smugglers in Kola, and Moshalashi bus stops in Alagbado area of Lagos State, resulted into the killing of four innocent souls who know nothing about the issue. Going by these unfortunate incidents, I feel it is high time Nigeria take a cue from advanced countries that make the protection of lives and the dignity of their citizens an utmost priority. This should be practiced by the Nigeria Customs in the course of discharging their duties.
Customs officers have no business being on the high ways rather they should be at the borders making sure no substandard goods come into the country. The out of control lawlessness of Police, Military, Custom and other law enforcement agencies had become daily problem for Nigerians. If we have a functioning democracy, the customs officers involved in the recent killing would have been in detention and charged with murder. The loss of life is completely unnecessary and unwarranted and unjustified. I wouldn’t know why customs officers will be chasing smugglers within the State, when their job is limited to borders. This shows that Customs officers are inefficient in managing the borders.
I would say it is not justified. The Nigeria Customs Service needs a holistic reform for the deep-seated decay in the service to be cleared. Instead of killing innocent people in the course of combating smugglers, it should deploy intelligence to track smugglers who escape at the borders and jointly enforce arrests and sanctions with the police and the courts. Officers who maim and kill people should not be tolerated; they should be prosecuted. Though, it cannot be ignored that Customs operatives do from time to time face threats to their lives. But the present shoot to kill approach to security must change. The NCS should develop best practices and reduce the need for the use of harmful force.