One person has been reportedly killed while seven others sustained injuries in a clash between men of the Nigerian Customs Service and suspected smugglers, in Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria.
The clash occurred on Tuesday in the Orile-Imo area of the state along Sagamu Interchange/Abeokuta expressway, Humangle learnt.
HumAngle gathered that some vehicles conveying rice from Abeokuta, the state capital, were intercepted by Customs operatives from the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Ikeja, Lagos.
Upon the interception, some armed persons reportedly arrived at the scene to defend the suspected smugglers against the customs officers.
This led to a crossfire between the two groups, resulting in the death of one suspected smuggler, while three customs officers, one soldier and three civilians sustained injuries.
When contacted, Theophilus Duniya, the Spokesman for FOU, confirmed the clash and described it as “a mob attack on the customs officers by hoodlums working with smugglers.”
“At about 06:00 hours of Tuesday 2nd February 2021. Officers of the unit, while carrying out their statutory duty of enforcing anti-smuggling laws, acted on intelligence and intercepted six vehicles laden with foreign parboiled rice at Abeokuta Expressway,” Duniya said.
He said the customs officers were attacked by hoodlums who wanted to prevent the seizure of the goods.
“However, in the crossfire that ensued, our operatives overpowered them and were able to evacuate three out of the intercepted vehicles to the warehouse,” he said.
Duniya said three customs officers and a soldier sustained bullet injuries from the attack.
He said the wounded officers were currently receiving treatment at a medical facility, while further investigation into bringing the perpetrators of the attack to book had commenced.
He, however, cautioned youths to reject being used by economic saboteurs to confront operatives of the service from carrying out their duties.
“DC Usman Yahaya, while thanking the law abiding citizens for supporting our operations, also warned people with criminal intentions to immediately desist from such because officers/men of the unit are well mobilised, backed up by the extant laws and shall remain resolute at enforcing the laws without fear of intimidation,” he said.
We are not smugglers but rice traders – Protesters
Meanwhile, some persons who identified themselves as rice traders stormed the office of the state governor in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, in protest against the attack.
The protesters demanded urgent intervention of the state government to address incessant attacks by the customs officers.
One of the protesters who pleaded anonymity said they were not smugglers but rice traders.
He alleged that they often “pay for bookings with the customs officers on the road” to avoid seizure of goods.
“We buy rice from Abeokuta here and sell to our customers in Sagamu. Whenever we get our goods from here and when we see Customs on the road, we normally do bookings with them.
“But to my surprise this morning, after doing the booking, on our way going after Siun Junction, another set of customs (personnel) from the same Federal Operations Union, intercepted our goods
“We told them ‘We met your people over there. What happened?’ They called soldiers for backup. Soldiers squatted on the road and started shooting. Four of our people were injured,” he said.
Tokunbo Talabi, the Secretary to the State Government, who addressed them on behalf of Governor Dapo Abiodun, called for calm and promised action that would be taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
He also promised that the medical bills of the victims would be settled by the state government.
Many lives lost as Relevant Authorities refuse to address incessant clashes
Some parts of the state have become hotspots due to incessant clashes between customs personnel and smugglers, oftentimes resulting in deaths.
In January, a special report by HumAngle reported how customs officers engage smugglers, particularly in the towns close to Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic, leaving tears, sorrow and deaths.
These clashes have turned many young women to widows, little children to orphans, and aged parents, childless.
Many, especially those who have been victims ask why the smugglers are not engaged before they get into town.
Support Our Journalism
There are millions of ordinary people affected by conflict in Africa whose stories are missing in the mainstream media. HumAngle is determined to tell those challenging and under-reported stories, hoping that the people impacted by these conflicts will find the safety and security they deserve.
To ensure that we continue to provide public service coverage, we have a small favour to ask you. We want you to be part of our journalistic endeavour by contributing a token to us.
Your donation will further promote a robust, free, and independent media.Donate Here