BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has said its personnel are covered by life insurance, aside from robust welfare and motivational packages which are available for any operative that suffers any form of mortal attack or first degree injury in the line of duty; including availing such officer immediate overseas medical treatment, should that become absolutely necessary.
Ogun State Command Area Controller, Comptroller Michael Agbara who was fielding questions from maritime journalists last week at Idiroko said his officers and men are targets of regular attacks, and informed that two operatives, seconded to complement the effort of the state command from the headquarters were attacked by suspected smugglers at the Idiroko operational axis.
This is even as he denied allegations that one of the state’s upward mobile markets, the Zango Ota rice market is stocked by the products smuggled through the command. Agbara who was addressed newsmen on the sterling performances of the command in both revenue generation and anti-smuggling operation for the month of November 2018, vowed however never to be intimidated to abandon its statutory job.
He also lamented situations where smugglers who suffers injuries or die during attempt to escape from arrest are readily twisted and attributed to customs doing, noting that very often, some of the incidences are self inflicted. The customs area boss said management will continue to strategize and re-strategize on ways to prevent traditional attempts at apprehending smugglers along the highly volatile Ogun area command by adopting milder intelligence options than chasing the smugglers on smaller modes of conveyance such as motorcycles, popularly known as okada.
His words: “Five days ago, some officers on patrol were knocked down at Oke Odun, they are still in hospital, two of them, and that is what we see every day. It is a risky job. They came from headquarters on patrol, just to complement our efforts. They were knocked down by a hit and run driver. They are right now in the hospital.
“There have been clashes; the last one was in Ebute village where they brag that no customs can ever enter. We entered there, made seizure of vehicles, army camouflage truck that anybody can convert to military vehicle. You know the era we are, we cannot toy with security. So, when that one happened our men went there, they were attacked as usual, but we did not lose anybody. They suffered body injury but they have been treated and discharged.”
“You see when we enlisted in the job, we know there are hazards but the NCS management is very mindful of that, so every customs officer is insured. Every customs officer has life insurance which is a motivating factor. Secondly, any injury, the treatment is born by the service, it depends on the degree, if we know no hospital in Nigeria can do it, the service will fly you out of the country. So we are highly motivated to do our job, nobody is abandoned.
“If you came here by road, you would have noticed one terrible scenario, the quantum of motorcycles that ply the road with one bag, with two bags, and you know the risk involved. Once Customs officer stop or pursue them, they will fall, and once they fall and die in the process, they say customs have killed somebody. We have been campaigning, we have been sensitizing them; we have been talking to the youths, to the elders to stop the trend. But I want to assure them, that government cannot be overwhelmed.
“Smugglers operating on okadas have one tactics they are using. Once you apprehend them…they carry knives, they cut the rope and then the rice will fall, and then they will run away with the okada. Some will even abandon their okadas. The terrain is rough that is why the number of suspects does not match the quantum of seizures. If you came here by road, you would have noticed one terrible scenario, the quantum of motorcycles that ply the road with one bag, with two bags, and you know the risk involved. Once Customs officer stop or pursue them, they will fall, and once they fall and die in the process, they say customs have killed somebody.