One person has been confirmed dead while seven others sustained injuries when operatives of the Nigerian Customs Service clashed with suspected smugglers along Sagamu Interchange/Abeokuta expressway in Ogun State.
Among those who sustained bullet, injuries are three Customs officers and a soldier.
It was gathered that the rice traders who were conveying imported rice to Samagu from Abeokuta ran into Customs operatives from the Federal Operations Unit Ikeja, who intercepted the product.
There was said to be resistance from some hoodlums allegedly working with the suspected smugglers, leading to a crossfire with the security operatives.
The Customs operatives was said to have called for reinforcement with some soldiers who joined them in their operation.
According to an eyewitness, those involved are not smugglers but rice sellers.
“We buy rice from Abeokuta here and sell it to our customers in Sagamu. Whenever we get our goods from here and when we see Customs on the road, we normally do bookings with them,” he claimed.
“But to my surprise this morning, after doing the booking, on our way going after Siun junction, another set of Customs intercepted our goods from the same office, Federal Operations Union (FOU).
“We were like ‘what happened? We met your people over there. What happened? They called soldiers for backup. Soldiers squat on the road and started shooting. Four people were injured.”
When contacted, the spokesman of the Federal Operations Unit, Theophilus Duniya, described the development as a mob attack on the customs officers by hoodlums who he said were working with smugglers.
According to him, the operatives acting on intelligence intercepted six vehicles laden with foreign parboiled rice at Abeokuta Expressway this morning.
“Upon the interception, some armed hoodlums working with smugglers swiftly mobilized themselves and attacked our officers in their bid to prevent the seizure from being taken away. However, in the crossfire that ensued, our operatives overpowered them and were able to evacuate three out of the intercepted vehicles to the warehouse,” he said.
Duniya said three Customs officers and a soldier sustained some bullet injuries from the attack, however kept mum on the death recorded.
He said the injured officers were currently receiving treatment at the Customs facility, adding that investigation had commenced into the attack.
“The Ag. Controller is very concerned about the injuries inflicted on the officers which were totally avoidable if only the youths were patriotic enough to know that the officers were just performing their lawful duties.
“DC Usman Yahaya, while thanking the law-abiding citizens for supporting their operations, also warned people with criminal intentions to immediately desist from such because officers/men of the Unit are well mobilized, backed up by the extant laws and shall remain resolute at enforcing the laws without fear of intimidation,” Duniya added.
He also cautioned the youths to reject being used by economic saboteurs to confront operatives of the service from carrying out their lawful duties.
Meanwhile, angry rice traders mobilised and stormed the governor’s office in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, in protest against the attack.
They demanded urgent intervention of the government to curb incessant attacks by the Customs.
The secretary to the State Government, Tokunbo Talabi, who addressed them assured of immediate interface with relevant authorities to end such occurrence in the state.
He also assured that the medical bills of the 4 victims will be taken care of by the state government.
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