One killed, others injured in hoodlums’, customs’ clash
One person lost his life yesterday while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries in a fracas that ensued between suspected smugglers and officials of the Nigerian Customs Service attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja at Abule-Egba area of Lagos State.
The deceased was identified as Mojeed Olayiwola of no fixed address. He was shot while inside a moving commercial bus by a yet to be identified customs officer. The incident happened around 6:30a.m.But in a swift reaction, spokesman of Customs at FOU, Zone A command, Jerry Attah, said nobody died in the incident and that the fracas was between suspected smugglers of rice and the customs men who were performing their enforcement duties.
It was gathered that trouble started when some custom men, who were acting on a tip-off went after a bus believed to be used by criminals to smuggle bags of rice from neighboring Republic of Benin into the country.
It was also learnt that the driver, who was afraid that his consignment may be seized by the pursuing Customs officials if stopped, drove like a wild lion from Sango-Ota area of Ogun State until he got to Abule-Egba.
Some eyewitnesses alleged that the driver of the vehicle jumped out of the bus when he got to the intersection at Abule-Egba, ostensibly to get help from some of his colleague.
A member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Femi Adurogba, who claimed to have witnessed the incident, said the fleeing driver started calling for help from his members. He said as soon as the group sighted the Customs vehicle approaching, the smugglers started hauling stones and other items at the Customs men.
“The Customs men opened fire, but someone who was still inside the bus was hit by a bullet. This made the onlookers to charge after the Custom vehicles, threatening to retaliate the death of one of their own. It was the timely arrival of policemen and soldiers attached to Op Mesa that dispersed the hoodlums who were spoiling for war,” he said.
A commercial bus driver, Chukwudi Emerole, alleged that what worsened the situation was an attempt by the hoodlums to prevent the Customs men from going away with the vehicle. According to him, the driver of the vehicle, in a bid to resist arrest, struggled to disarm one of the officials.“One of them even dared the security men to shoot him if they can. They were behaving as if bullet can not penetrate them.”
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chike Oti, who confirmed the incident, said the deceased was inside a bus when he was allegedly shot at by a yet to be identified customs officer, stressing that the deceased was not one of the hoodlums who attacked the Customs men; but the PRO, FOU Zone A, Ikeja, Jerry Attah, said no one died.
Driver of the commercial bus, Yinka Ajayi, said the rice he was carrying belonged to a trader who bought them at Sango market and was taking it to Agege market to sell. He said: “I am a bus driver and I go through Agege to Sango every day. On each trip, I carry people and sometimes traders that buy food materials at Sango market like today. This morning, I was carrying 10 bags of rice and five passengers when I noticed that Customs were following me.
“I stopped at Abule Egba and one of the two Customs vans came to block me at the front while the other stayed at the back. I was asked what I have in the bus I told them it is a passenger’s rice, which was bought at Sango market.
“As I was still talking to them, some of the Customs officers came down and started shooting at my bus with passengers inside the bus. Three people were hit, one of them was hit at the head and he died immediately and others that got wounded have been taken to the hospital. I was also beaten and hit with the butt of a gun.”
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