Three die as Customs, suspected smugglers clash
Lagos police wade in to maintain peace and order, frown at Customs officers’ action
No fewer than three persons were shot dead and others injured when Customs officers clashed with suspected smugglers at the Alakuko area of Lagos.
It was gathered that some Customs officers from Federal Operations Unit, Zone A’ were chasing suspected smugglers, who were conveying rice in a truck.
The Customs officials allegedly shot at the vehicle, killing three persons.
It was, however, learnt that policemen from the Alakuko Division tried to apprehend the Customs officers, who allegedly shot sporadically to scare away the police and other sympathisers, who tried to arrest the trigger-happy Customs officer.
The Custom men had escaped from the scene with the vehicle conveying the rice.
Sympathisers, including street-urchins then took to the streets, protesting against the death of the three suspected smugglers.
Hoodlums hijacked the protest and started molesting motorists and other passersby on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Some vehicles windscreens were smashed and there was traffic gridlock along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway as the hoodlums barricaded the road.
When The Guardian visited the area, there was, momentarily, a total breakdown of law and order.
The Lagos State police Command had frowned at the actions of the trigger-happy Customs officials, as their actions created panic and apprehension in the entire Alagbado and Alakuko area.
An eye-witness, John Ogbu said: “It was around 7:00 a.m., I was standing in front of my shop when all of a sudden, I saw two vehicles driving recklessly and they were being pursued by a Customs patrol vehicle. “The Custom officials were firing at the vehicles. Some passersby were hit by bullets.
“I also saw some policemen trying to block the Customs men from escaping and there was exchange of gun-firing between the Customs and the police”
A senior Customs official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We were doing our job of arresting some rice smugglers and the police were aiding and abating them. In the process, there was a shoot-out between us. I can’t say what transpired. Nobody was shot. I learnt that no one died although some were rushed to the hospital. I cannot say who fired the shot. But all I can say is that we were doing a legitimate job when the police obstructed our job.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Dolapo Badmos, a Superintendent of Police (SP) confirmed that one person was allegedly shot dead by the gun-trotting Customs men.
“It happened around 7:00 a.m. today (yesterday). Customs officials were on the trail of a vehicle and in the process, they went berserk and started shooting. They killed one Saheed Omotosho. His brother Rasheed was taken away to an unknown destination. The identity of the Custom man is not known.
“The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Alakuko mobilised his team to the scene to maintain peace”
On his own, the spokesman for FOU, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs (ASC) Jerry Attah, said, “We have no problems with the police. It was a problem between smugglers and the Customs officers. We have arrested one suspect and the exhibits are with us.”
As at press time, there was tension as policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), led by its Commander, Mr. Tunji Disu and policemen from Alakuko Division were at the scene trying to maintain law and order.