Policemen from the Oto Awori Police Division and some Nigeria Customs Sercice (NCS) officials attached to the Seme Area Command on Tuesday, exchanged gunfire for about an hour at Agbara over the alleged arrest of a yet-to-be identified police inspector.
The police inspector, who was said to be attached to the Oto Awori division, was allegedly arrested by the customs officials after a tip-off that he was involved in smuggling bags of rice from Cotonou, Republic of Benin through the Seme border.
Eyewitnesses said customs men had laid ambush for the police inspector on his way from Cotonou.
One of the witnesses, who pleaded anonymity because of the fear of reprisal, said: “Immediately the police inspector showed up, the customs officials apprehended him. The inspector denied smuggling any bag of rice and resisted arrest. He even blocked the road with his car and stopped the flow of traffic. The arrest soon degenerated into chaos, and eventually, the customs officials chained him to a building by the road.”
The detained police inspector was said to have quickly made a distress call to his colleagues at the Oto Awori division.
It was learnt that no fewer than 10 teams of policemen came down to the spot. They were said to be armed and shot indiscriminately as they approached the scene.
The customs officials who were not ready to give up the suspect, and also shot back at the policemen.
“For over an hour, these two security agencies exchanged gunfire. Traffic on both sides of the road came to a halt. Everyone abandoned their vehicles and ran for safety. When it became clear that there was no headway, the policemen, who were led by one unidentified man with a DSP insignia on his shoulder, withdrew. They took two customs officials with them,” the source added.
It was learnt that as travellers on the road were returning to their vehicles and also talking about the incident, the policemen returned to the scene. They allegedly told the customs officials that what they wanted was that the police inspector in their custody be released to them.
“Eventually, the customs men unchained the inspector and allowed him to go. After that, the policemen told the customs officials that they would see them later. I think that exchange would not be the end of the matter. It was a horrible experience that we went through while the shooting lasted. The police and customs hierarchy must do something about this to ensure that there is no repeat of the incident,” the eyewitness said.
When contacted, Customs Area Controller of Seme border command, Comptroller Willy Egbudin, told SHIPS& PORTS DAILY that the customs officials involved in the incident were not his officers but operatives of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ stationed at Agbara.
Giving an insight into what led to the incident, Egbudin said the police man was driving towards the customs personnel checkpoint at Agbara and was asked to stop for check because he was on mufti but he refused.
“The police officer was coming, I don’t know whether he has anything with him or not but they wanted to search him because he was on mufti but he resisted so there was a little fracas. The officers are not my officers, they are officers from the federal operations unit,” he said.
He denied allegations that the two security agencies exchanged gunfire in the course of the fracas.
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