A public affairs analyst, Dr. Lasisi Olagunju, has decried the lawlessness and recklessness exhibited by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) who recently invaded the Ibarapa community in Oyo State and killed three indigenes.
In an article published weekend, Olagunju said except the Customs officials were war-baiting, they had no business going to Ibarapa “this tetchy times ostensibly hunting rice smugglers – and at night”, killing three unarmed men in the process.
“Certain Federal agencies in Nigeria have some very interesting defining features. One is that they are arrogant, clumsy and rude. Another is that they are shameless – they lack shame in exhibiting their cluelessness. Officers and men of our Customs Service are paid to guard our borders against unwanted goods. But that service and its men compete diligently with the Nigeria Police on metropolitan highways and in searching bedrooms and water pots for what they refused to stop at the borders.
“The borders have forever remained leaky even while closed. Customs officers are paid to ensure that the gates are shut to unwanted wares; yet, things happen. And when things happen, the ‘sanitary inspectors’ invade homes and warehouses in search of what they allowed in. I do not know of any other country on earth that leaves its borders porous and then fights smuggling of foreign goods in the hinterlands,” he wrote.
The public affairs analysts said the Ibarapa area is too terrorized by privileged killers and pampered abductors to sleep without opening both eyes. He said the community is more than 200km away from the nearest international border to be a haven for smugglers.
“But the Customs were there firing from all their cylinders and shattering the night for the death-weary villagers. It did not matter to the gunmen that the scenes of the shootings, Ibarapa’s Igangan, Igboora and Ayete are not border towns.
“The officers who did it were not even from the Oyo State command. They are an invading force called “Federal Operations unit” headed by a certain DC Usman Yahaya. Yet, from wherever they came, like the owl they are, they said they ‘sighted,’ that night, eight trucks of smuggled rice in a place hundreds of kilometers to the nearest international border.
“The distance from that place to Benin Republic is 204 kilometers. Check. If you like, ask the invaders what their real missions were. So, after the shooting and the killing, where are the eight trucks of foreign parboiled rice’? The Customs service already answered that. It said the smugglers ‘retreated with their smuggled wares.’ Retreated to where? To Benin Republic?
“There is an old joke about a Customs officer asking a traveller to please open his suitcase. ‘But I don’t have a suitcase,’ the traveller told him. And the Customs officer retorted: ‘It does not matter. The order is one for everyone.’
“Why did people have to die because of rice, foreign or local? One of those reportedly killed by the Customs men was an Amotekun operative on a motorcycle. Was he also a rice smuggler? The real loser in all this is Nigeria. In that man’s death and in the others’ death, and in the official excuse for their death, Nigeria has given their children and their other relations reasons to forever hate the country,” Dr Olagunju stated.
The public affairs analysts also decried the selective anti-smuggling operations of the Nigeria Customs Service, which he said, is concentrated in the southern part of the country.
“I have heard some southern voices demanding why stories as Ibarapa’s are not heard from the north. They also ask: When was the last time the Customs raided ‘trucks’ and warehouses in Katsina, in Sokoto, in Gusau, in Kano and in Kaduna? Or the north is smuggling-free?” he queried.