How Customs officials killed 30 unarmed indigenes in southwest Nigeria in 5 years

Customs operatives storm Ayetoro, shooting ‘as if ordered to wipe out the community’ 

 

No fewer than 30 indigenes of various communities in Lagos, Oyo and Ogun States, all in southwest Nigeria, lost their lives when their communities were raided at various times by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between May 2016 and July 2021.

The killings took place in Ayetoro, Ipokia, Shagamu, Owode/Idiroko, Oja-Odan in Yewa North Local Government area, and Iyana Iyesi in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government area, all in Ogun State. The casualties in Oyo State were reported in Iseyin and Ibarapa while those in Lagos were reported in Badagry and Abule-Egba.

In addition to those who lost their lives, at least 20 others were injured by the Customs officials during the period.

Ogun State has the highest number of casualties as 16 people in its communities were killed by the Customs officials. Oyo State recorded nine casualties while Lagos had five within the period under review.

A further review of the reckless shootings by Customs officials in communities in the southwest region also showed that 10 people were killed in 2016; two in 2018, two in 2019; six in 2020 and 10 so far in 2021.

The Customs officials, who always carried their attacks on the communities under the guise of chasing smugglers, more often than not, killed innocent citizens and blamed such killings on “stray bullets”.

The incidents, as documented in various reports published by SHIPS & PORTS over the past five years, include the killing of six persons in Oke-Odan, Ogun State in May 2016 and four persons in Lagos in December of the same year.

The six persons killed in Oke-Odan died from “stray bullets” after Customs operatives reportedly chased smugglers from Igolo, a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic, into their community. The Customs officials were said to have fired sporadic gunshots as they chased the suspects, causing the death of six innocent people. According to an eyewitness, the deceased were three children, a roadside mechanic, a panel-beater and another man identified as Ade.

The killings in Lagos happened on October 14, 2016 at Moshalashi and Kola Bus Stops at Alagbado and Ajegunle in Alakuko areas of the state. In addition to killing four people, the Customs officials also injured three others. All the four killed by the “stray bullets” were commercial motorcyclists working to earn their daily bread.

The killings in Lagos attracted the attention of the House of Representatives, which ordered an investigation into the matter. The lawmakers said the revenue-generating agency was abusing its powers in its condemnable acts of  “maiming of innocent passers-by, illegal raiding of markets, warehouses, breaking into shops to impound contraband, diversion of impounded goods for personal gains by Customs officials.”

However, nothing was heard about the outcome of the investigation until the expiration of the lifespan of the 8th National Assembly in May 2019.

No incident of killings was recorded in 2017, but in 2018, two people were felled by Customs’ bullet – one at the Abule Egba area of Lagos and the other at Ilaro, Ogun State.

Two people were also killed by Customs officials in 2019. The two incidents were recorded in Sagamu and Idiroko, both in Ogun State.

Many Nigerians expressed outrage over the killing at Sagamu. A video that exposed the killing, which surface online in February 2019, showed how an unarmed traveller was killed by a trigger-happy Customs official over bribe.

The video recording showed a woman screaming and accusing Customs officers seen in the video of killing the man “because of N5,000”.

The victim of the Idiroko shooting was a studentt of Ojumo Community High School, Ihunbo in Ipokia Local Government area of Ogun State. In addition to his death, several other students sustained injuries from gunshots fired by Customs officials on October 7, 2019.

How Customs officials killed 30 unarmed indigenes in southwest Nigeria in 5 years

 

The matter was tabled at the Senate by Senator Tolu Odebiyi, the Senator representing Ogun West Senatorial District. However, no concrete action has been taken either by the upper legislative chamber or by the NCS management to date.

Six persons – all in Ogun State – were killed by the Customs officials in 2020. The victims included a 15-year old boy, who was killed in Owode, Idiroko in May and a 50-year-old panel beater named Moses Atanda at Oja-Odan-Eegua on September 26, 2020. Both the student and Atanda were innocent citizens going about their activities before their lives were cut short by “stray bullets” fired by the trigger-happy Customs officials.

Also in 2020, three people were killed at Ayetoro on Tuesday December 22, when Customs officials were fired on the community in the name of chasing smugglers.

A few days after the Ayetoro killing, the Customs officials descended on Oke-Odan, Yewa South Local Government area of Ogun State, again and this time killed a youth of the community on New Year’s Eve.

Also on July 6, 2020, Customs officers at Seme shot two young boys Hunsu Taiwo aged 12 and Ganjo Henry aged 10 who were playing in their compound when they were hit by Customs’ bullet. Luckily, the children escaped death by the whiskers.

It was gathered that the customs officers resorted to sporadic gunshots while chasing a suspected car smuggler along Idiroko border road. The incident led to a riot as youths of the community barricaded the road, demanding the arrest and prosecution of the Customs officers.

So far in 2021, the trigger-happy Customs officials have killed 10 indigenes in Oyo and Ogun States. While one person was killed Ayetoro, Ogun State, nine have been killed in Ibarapa and Iseyin areas of Oyo State. All those killed in the Customs attack were innocent citizens who were not involved in smuggling.

Typically, Customs image makers blamed the incidents on “stray bullets”. For instance, with regards to the killing of a traveller at the Shagamu interchange along Ijebu Ode road on February 18, 2019, Customs spokesman Joseph Attah, issued a statement attributing the incident to “stray bullet”. Attah, however, did not comment on the bribe demanded by the Customs officials as alleged by one of the eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident. He also did not address the punitive measure that would be meted out to the perpetrator of the extra-judicial killing.

Many well meaning Nigerians have issued statements condemning the extra-judicial killings by Customs officials and the failure of the Customs management to put an end to bring perpetrators to book.

The Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, on behalf of other traditional rulers, decried the killings by the Customs officials.

“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.

“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 Owode killings brought to book,” the traditional ruler said in February 2019.

On May 12, 2020 in Ogun State, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and National Association of Ogun State Students (NAOSS) issued a seven–day ultimatum to the Customs management to remove the Comptroller of Ogun State Command, Michael Agbara, over the reckless and incessant killing of students in the state by operatives under his jurisdiction.

Youths of communities where these extra-judicial killings by the Customs and their traditional rulers have also condemned these acts of killing urging the Federal Government to put an end to the trend.

However, the Customs management has refused to investigate or arrest any of the officers involved in the killing, fuelling fears that the southwest region could remain a killing field for trigger-happy Customs operatives for a long time.

 

 

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