By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of times for the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja. This is because of the recent incident at the Shagamu interchange along the Ijebu-Ode road. A Patrol team from the Command in a bid to enforce its anti-smuggling mandate had stopped a Hiace bus suspected to be carrying bales of second hand clothing.
The Value News could not ascertain where the commercial bus was heading to before it was flagged down by the patrol team for a routine search. The driver of the bus and the passengers may not have found the action of the Customs anti-smuggling officers funny for obstructing their movement and were said to have put up a strong resistance. Eyewitness account said the passengers from the bus were arguing with the Customs officers who stopped them with passengers from other commercial buses watching to see the outcome of the Customs search. The source disclosed that temper was very high that there was exchange of hot words ., with one of them daring the armed Customs personnel: shoot him and see what would happen to you. The threat to the life of the officer may have forced the gun with him to go off immediately. The sound of the gun, according to report by Channels Television was believed to have caused some of the people at the scene to flee with some others repeatedly shouting ”Customs officials have killed someone. the reports confirms what Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokes person had said.
Attah , who disclosed that” it was during the skirmishes and struggle to disarm the officer by the passengers that his rifle discharged and hit one Godwin”, suspected to be a regular face at the Patrol team base on the road to attend to their needs like fetching of water and buying of food, confirmed that he died instantly . he noted that one Destiny Onebamho, an Assistant Superintendent sustained serious injury during the fracas but was rushed to an undisclosed hospital under tight security as the mob were calling for revenge.
Another account has it that the patrol team officer had demanded for N5,000.00 bribe to clear the road when he suspected that the bus was carrying Contraband which the driver who may have been settled by the passenger was not ready to with the Customs or policemen on the road. Many who saw one of the female passengers crying that ”they have killed the passenger because of N5,000.00”, described it as a blackmail.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Aliyu , the Command Comptroller was said to have sent the incident report to Hamid Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, as well as reached out to the family of the bereaved for discussion on burial arrangement and other necessary Compensations.
The Customs Comptroller, who do not want a repeat of such an incident in the future was said to have recalled the Patrol team back to office to help in the on-going investigation over the alleged killing of the young man.
Given the apparent confusion the aggrieved passengers were said to have the killed the victim and the wounded officer which was posted on the social media to create the impression that it was one of them that was killed to incite the mob against the officers. But Attah insists that the killed person was not one of the passengers in the commercial bus that was stopped for searching.
Note that past and present Comptroller of the FOU, Zone a, had repeatedly warned the officers about the use of guns in the midst of provocation to avoid loss of lives. It was not surprising why the patrol team officers at the Sagamu Interchange along the Ijebu Ode road had avoided using their guns even the midst of provocations to loss of lives. In several Border Communities in Ogun state, where the Command Strke Force, headed by Superintendent Aliyu and the Operation and Lagos Roving team, under the control of Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, have been involved in anti-smuggling operations to root out the smugglers, they have repeated being attacked with matchets and guns by smugglers who connive with the villagers but the officers had been hesitant in using their weapons to protect their lives. The Command over the years had lost officers to smugglers and the villagers in the discharge of their legitimate duties but critics may not have seen anything wrong in Customs officers being killed while in active duties.