Customs officers kill suspected smuggler in gun duel in Ogun

The burnt customs patrol vehicle

• Mob sets patrol van ablaze
• Whereabouts of five officers unknown

Roving officers of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) and Comptroller General’s compliant team have allegedly killed someone they tagged ‘smuggler’ at Sango-Ota, Ogun State. The Guardian gathered that the shooting was carried out in the early hours of yesterday.

The driver was shot dead by customs officers, who were chasing smugglers at the old Sango Toll Gate. Although the reason for the killing was yet to be ascertained, the slain driver was said to be one of the smugglers.

He was, however, reportedly not carrying any contraband goods in his Lexus Sports Utility Vehicle when he was shot dead.

The battered body of the slain driver was abandoned on the road for more than two hours, before his younger brother came and took him away.

It was gathered that the driver was killed for allegedly shielding the smugglers from being arrested by the customs officer.

A trader, who identified himself as Bitrus said: “It happened around 5:30a.m.. The customs officers were chasing some smugglers.

“They were coming from Sango side but the smugglers made a U-turn towards Sango again and while the customs officers were trying to turn, a vehicle blocked them. Suddenly, we heard gunshots and by the time the dust settled, a driver of a Sport Utility Vehicle had been killed.

“From what I heard, the driver was one of the leaders of the smugglers. He was trying to delay the customs officers from chasing his men when he was shot,” the trader said.

Another trader, who pleaded anonymity, said: “the customs officer knew the driver very well. They knew him to be the leader of the smugglers. When they killed him, they did not search his vehicle, they just drove towards Sango.”

Speaking on telephone, the spokesman of the FOU in Lagos, Jerry Attah, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs (ASC), said he was still investigating to ascertain the team that did the shooting.

According to him, “some people called to inform me about the killing of a smuggler by our men. The information I have is still sketchy. But I understand the smugglers burnt the vehicle belonging to the CGC’s compliant team. I shall get back to you as soon as I get the details.”

Confirming the incident on the telephone, the Ogun Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Bimbola Oyeyemi, said the suspected smuggler was killed during a gun duel. Oyeyemi said officers of the NCS had intercepted some smugglers at the tollgate in Ota.

They, however, resisted arrest and opened fire and in the exchange, the yet-to-be identified man was killed.

The spokesman said the police had, however, restored peace in the area and prevented loss of innocent lives, adding that the police had started an investigation into the incident.

In a reaction to the killing, some smugglers allegedly attacked a customs’ patrol team, injuring officers and burning down the operational vehicle.

The officers were ambushed and attacked around the tollgate end of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, after seizing three vehicles laden with frozen chickens and foreign parboiled rice from the smugglers.

Attah, who confirmed that a customs’ patrol vehicle was burnt and officers were mobbed, said “the CG compliant team was on a routine patrol and it ran into the mob, who attacked and burnt their patrol van. Presently, we don’t know the status of the officers.

“Two out of the three vehicles laden with rice and chicken are in our custody. One Mazda 626, with registration number KTU504AL and Volkswagen with no number plate is presently in our warehouse,” he said, adding that, “investigations are ongoing to determine the whereabouts of our officers.”

For sometime now, security agencies, especially the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Police Force and the Civil Defence Corps, have scarcely placed high premium on human lives, as they have formed the habit of shooting citizens at the slightest provocation.

This year alone, about three persons have fallen to the bullets of trigger-happy customs officials, who are quick to tag their victims ‘smugglers’. With the killing of three persons a few weeks ago by policemen in Mushin and Sunday’s killing of a 25-year-old apprentice by a DPO in Ijeshatedo, pundits now query if arms provided to policemen by government were meant to kill Nigerians. Last week, the customs officials and vehicle dealers in Kaduna State clashed over vehicle import duty, leading to angry dealers setting a customs’ Hilux patrol vehicle ablaze. .

The timely intervention of the Kaduna State security outfit, Operation Yaki, rescued what could have been an ugly incident as they prevented the clash from leading to a major crisis within the city.

The incident, which took place along Rabah Road in Kaduna North Local Council, occurred around 3:00p.m. last Thursday when customs officials went on patrol to impound vehicles without import duties from car dealers in the city.


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