The House of Representatives has commenced investigation into the extrajudicial killing of five unarmed persons in Iseyin, Oyo State, by men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The House Committee on Customs and Excise grilled officials of the NCS at an investigative hearing, where the lawmakers condemned the service over how it handled the crisis that followed the interception of alleged rice smugglers on May 13, 2021.
Tijani Rasak, a leader in the Iseyin community, who spoke on behalf of the victims’ families, said, “On 13th of May 2021, the incident occurred around 4:30pm during the Eid-el-Fitr celebration after Ramadan. The majority of those people that were killed were not smugglers; they were only performing their official duties.
“Some were okada (commercial motorcycle) riders, some were painters while some were just going on the road where the stray bullets hit most of them and they died.
“We are not saying that the Customs or any other government agency should not perform their official duties but what baffled us most is that when you consider the nearness of Iseyin town to the nearest border, if not more than 200 kilometres, it will be 200 kilometres to the border. And we believe that there is a stipulation of 25 kilometres to the border, where the Customs can operate.
“If they were able to catch these smugglers within that limit, we will believe that they were performing their duty, but coming down to the town where people were going on, performing their duties, going here and there; most of the people were not even aware that there was something (clash) between the Customs and the smugglers.
“They wasted five lives. There were some who were hit by these bullets but they did not die. But five persons died instantly. This is not the first time that this is happening in Iseyin, and that is why the community’s head said enough is enough.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Leke Abejide, while leading the grilling of the representatives of Customs, asked how the alleged contraband was smuggled through 50 towns covering about 200 kilometres before being intercepted at Iseyin.
Abejide said, “Why was it that they (smugglers) were not arrested there at the border before coming to this long distance?”
Responding, the acting Deputy Controller-General of Customs (Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection), Elton Edorhe, stated that all recruits undergo training especially on weapon handling in the NCS.
“Customs operations are not necessarily limited to the borders. We are not under any limitations. Under Section 158 of CEMA, we are to patrol freely. CEMA is an Act of parliament,” he said.
The committee resolved to summon the Customs officials in Oyo who were directly involved in the incident.