Customs’ Bloody Anti-Smuggling Battle

By Bayo Bernard

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS has thrown more effort to generating more revenue into the federation account since he was appointed to that post by President Muhammadu Buhari three years ago.

Not less than N1.2 trillion was collected last year alone, said Joseph Attah, a deputy comptroller of customs and the service spokesman. It was the first time so much will be collected by the over 100 year NCS.

But analysts say blood has been left on the trail of desperation on the part of officers to generate revenue for the federal government.

May be more energy should be geared towards the training of its men to stop the incessant cold blooded murder of Nigerians by trigger happy officers, security experts say.

Sometimes, the battle gets bloodier as victims are also left on the side of customs.

“This is what we faced in our efforts to do our jobs and rid Nigeria of smuggling,” an assistant controller in Lagos told the magazine on Monday. May be.

Last Sunday, February 17, a man was shot dead along the Shagamu interchange of the Lagos/ Ibadan highway by some NCS officers who mounted guard on the road.

Destiny Onebamho, an Assistant Superintendent fired the shot that killed the victim.

Argument had ensued between the officers and some travellers, allegedly in possession of contraband goods.

The refusal to pay bribe by the traders led to the argument and eventual death of the victim, named Godwin Onoja, initially thought to be a traveller, but turned out to be one of the touts working for Customs, eyewitnesses told the magazine.

But Attah in a statement said the victim died as a result of accidental discharge.

He also denied allegation that the officers demanded bribes.

“Contrary to some narratives, the young man was not a passenger of the bus but a good citizen who always come to fetch water for Customs Patrol men anytime they return to the base, Attah said in reaction to the killing, adding that “Preliminary finding indicate that it was during the skirmishes and struggle to disarm the Officer that the riffle discharged and hit the friend of the Customs (Godwin) who lost his life.

Four officers have also been detained in connection with the murder, the magazine has learnt.

“Following the unfortunate incident of Sunday, February 17, 2019, at the Sagamu interchange involving operatives of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’, which led to the death of a fellow citizen, Mr Godwin Onoja, the Nigeria Customs Service has continued to maintain close contact with the bereaved family.

In line with this directive, the investigation panel headed by the Zonal Coordinator, Zone ‘A’,  ACG Kaycee Ekekezie, has interrogated and detained four members of the patrol team,” Attah said in another statement.

Last year on January 17, men of the service shot and killed a young man in Abule-Egba, a suburb of Lagos State.

The boy, named Toheeb Olayiwola, had woken up that day unknown to him that he will never return home.

Barely few hours after he boarded a public bus to his place of work, he was hit on his head when customs officers fired shots at the bus he boarded.

Two other passengers in the bus were also received fatal wound from the shot fired by the officers, said to be in pursuits of smugglers carrying imported rice and oil.

Few days ago in Katsina, no fewer than five persons were feared dead after a clash between officers and smugglers.

Several others were believed to have received various degrees of injuries in the incident, which took place between Mil Takwas village and Agangaro, the North-West farms along Jibia-Katsina Road.

The service has denied the killings.

Just recently, traditional rulers in Ogun state sent a clarion call to President Buhari and Ali to save their people from trigger happy officers of the service.

The council led by the Olu of Ilaro and paramount ruler of Yewa land, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, alleged that Customs officers in the state’s border towns were fond of killing innocent citizens under the disguise of pursuing smugglers.

The council also claimed that the customs officers have also engaged in harassing royal fathers, accusing them of riding smuggled vehicles.

“We are sad by the spate of harassment, maiming and killings of our people in Yewa communities and Ogun State by men of Nigerian Customs Service under the disguise of pursuing smugglers or raiding of shops where smugglers items are kept,” the council said after a meeting to checkmate further killing of their subjects by Ali’s men.

The service has also become worried lately by the death of its officers on duty.

Just last month,  Hamisu Sani, an officer with the Ogun state command was killed by smugglers during a clash.

Apart from Sani, who until his death was a Customs Assistant I, another officer, Tijjani Michel equally sustained injuries from machete cut. He’s currently recuperating, the service said.

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