For residents of Koko town, Idiroko in Ipokia Local Government of Ogun State, the alleged murder of one of their youths, Timothy Ezekiel, by men of the Nigeria Customs Service on February 26, is one death too many.
Accusing the Customs of aiding rice smuggling and collecting bribes from perpetrators, the aggrieved residents lamented that the deceased had never engaged in the illegal act.
Wearing long faces, the leaders of the youths narrated what the community has tagged “Broad daylight murder” of one of its finest youths.
Timothy was shot in front of his father’s house about 10am, after he rushed out from the backyard to protect his aged and ill father from stray bullet.
The deceased, a motorcyclist, was said to have stayed off work that fateful day.
Narrating the incident, the deceased’s 80-year old father, Joel Ezekiel, demanded justice for his son.
He said: “I am heartbroken; I have been suffering from partial stroke since the death of my wife, which has made it difficult for me to walk unassisted.
“The day the incident occurred, I was sitting outside my house and suddenly, I saw four Customs vehicles with armed officers.
“We were told that they had come to search a building about five minutes away, which they said had contraband rice. By that time, my son, who did not go to work was inside with his wife and other youths, assisting our neighbor who was roofing his house.
“Suddenly, the officers started shooting sporadically. They were just shooting anyhow and at that point, Timothy came out to take me, his grandmother and children who were playing inside.
“He told the children to run inside and he assisted me. He was standing behind me to usher me inside and that was how I heard him scream.
“He fell on the ground and bleeding and died on the spot because the bullet hit him at his back shoulder.
“Immediately the officers saw that they have killed my son, they took to their heels. They did not carry any rice and did not stop by to commiserate with the family.
“Instead, they went to publish lies, saying that my son was a smuggler and he was killed while he was struggling with them. This is not true. They killed my Timo right before me.
“Since that day, his expectant wife has been in the hospital. She has not been able to overcome the shock.
“All I want is justice for my son. The officers that killed him were led by one Ajao. The person who shot the bullet that hit Timo is one Ade.
“We reported the issue the same day at the police station and the police came for the body and took it for autopsy.
“We have buried Timo but we are not happy because Customs is shielding his killers,” he said.
He said that the ‘killer team’ had been on rampage in the area and had killed an aged woman as well as an expectant mother, but nothing has been done to them.
“Their major target was to detabilise the rice market here and they have succeeded because people from neighbouring communities no longer come here for fear of being killed by stray bullet from trigger-hungry Customs officers.
“The 120 bags of rice they came here to seize are not contraband. They belong to a group of marketers and have been kept by the community as evidence,” he said.
But the Customs’ Public Relations Officer of the Ogun State Command, Mr. Chike Ngige disagreed with the aggrieved members, saying nobody could ascertain the killer of the late Ezekiel.
He said: “On the day of the incident, men of the Ogun State Command went to evacuate loads of rice that had been stored in a particular place in the town where they had located prior to their invasion of the place.
“When the officers got there and were removing the rice, some hoodlums tried to prevent them. The officers shot into the air to scare them. But they (hoodlums) replied with gunshots.
“In the process, a known smuggler was felled. The deceased was identified as Timothy Ezekiel.”