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Pandemonium as customs officials allegedly kill rice smuggler

Nigeria Customs Service

• Army, police repel mob attempt to torch Ogun customs’ office
• Amosun condemns NCS incessant killings, recklessness

Men from the Ogun State Command of the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) yesterday killed a driver for allegedly carrying smuggled rice. The incident nearly resulted in the razing down of the headquarters of the custom’s office located at Quarry Road, Abeokuta, but for the quick intervention of policemen, soldiers and members of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC).

The mob’s attempt to dump the body of the deceased at the premises of the custom office was also frustrated by the security men. Mr. Shola Josiah, who was among the mob, told journalists that the victim, 37-year-old Saubana, also known as Onila, was among four other drivers who were carrying 25 bags of rice each from Kuto, Abeokuta to Sagamu when custom officials accosted them.

“We loaded from Kuto to Sagamu but on the way, the custom men intercepted us at Sowo Village along Kobape road. They shot at Onila’s car tyre, a Mazda 626. The car summersaulted, the guy was shot at pointblank and he died on the spot.”

The Guardian gathered that four other suspects escaped with gunshot wounds and have been taken to the State General Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta for treatment. The victim left behind four children and a wife. He was immediately buried according to Islamic rites.

The Ogun State Custom Command spokesman, Mr. Usman Abubakar, in his reaction, said: “One of our patrol teams went on routine patrol along Kobape, Sagamu interchange and they saw some rice smugglers and chased them.”

He admitted that one of the alleged smugglers was killed, but insisted that it was through an accident and was not shot at by his men. “When the smugglers saw our men, they started driving on top speed and in the process one of the vehicles went into ditch and the driver died.”

Only two weeks ago, custom men stormed the Sango-Ota rice market at dawn, broke into some shops and carted away several thousand bags of rice. However, the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has condemned in strong terms the killing of two persons by men of the Nigeria Customs Service, at Kobape in Obafemi Owode Local Council of the state, along the Abeokuta-Sagamu expressway.

It took the intervention of a delegation of the state government and security agencies that visited the scene on the instruction of the governor to douse the tension created by aggrieved motorists and residents. They had blocked the expressway protesting against the killing, thereby making the road impassable for over three hours.

In a statement signed by the secretary to the state government, Taiwo Adeoluwa, the governor said: “While we do not support economic sabotage, we condemn the needless killing and will not tolerate recklessness and unprofessional conduct by officers of the Customs Service.

“We hereby appeal to the top echelon of the Customs Service to call their officers in the state to order and embrace proper decorum and civility in their operations so as to avoid acts capable of breaching public peace and putting government in a bad light among the people.”

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