By Eguono Odjegba
Repeat clash between operatives of the Ogun Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, and suspected smugglers in the border communities of the state Friday, resulted in serious injuries of two customs men, who are presently recuperating at an undisclosed hospital.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the Command, Abdullahi Maiwada said the customs operatives came under attack in the cause of moving seized goods from Ilaro operational areas to government warehoused at the command headquarters in Abeokuta.
Despite the attack, the customs operatives succeeded in successfully moving the items to the warehouse, with backing and reinforcement from the army, police and men of the federal operations unit, Ikeja, Lagos. While three suspected attackers were reportedly arrested during the fracas, the command has vowed to continue to carry out its constitutional duties without fear of the consequences and warned parents and guardians to call their children and wards to order, to desist from obstructing lawful duty of the customs service.
The statement reads: “Officers of Nigeria Customs Service Ogun Command escorting seized smuggled rice from Ilaro navigating to Abeokuta Government Warehouse for safe keeping on Friday at about 0800hours were obstructed by a group of hoodlums (who) pelted our personnel with stones, bottles, cutlasses, sticks and other dangerous items.
“Our Officers restrained themselves by controlling the situation short of using force. On the arrival of reinforcement teams from Army, Police, Federal Operations Unit and Command teams, the hoodlums were overpowered but not before serious injuries were inflicted on two Customs Personnel who are currently responding to treatment in the hospital”.
“Officers tactically succeeded in securing the seizures out of the scene in a professional manner thereby avoiding any loss of life. The seized items have been secured with three (3) suspects currently undergoing interrogation at Customs Command Headquarters.
Vanguard Maritime Report was however informed by usually reliable sources that the attack may have been an act of vengeance borne out of frustration that whereas the leadership of the command receives settlement and pass the affected goods, only to deploy operatives to go on the trail of such goods upon leaving the vicinity of the compromised route of passage; thereby allegedly undermining mutual trust and expected business fidelity.
In the words of one source, “this fight will not end oga, they cannot continue to collect money from us and send their boys to chase us after they have passed our goods. We settle them if the controller does not want the settlement system he should stop collecting our money, let us meet at the jungle, if we survive, fine, if they get us, fine. Why must they call us for settlement, and after we settle and cross over, they chase us, he lamented.
But reacting the Ogun Customs area controller, Comptroller Michael Agbara said debunked the allegation as mere tissues of lies, fabricated to seek sympathy.
It will recall that Inspector of Custom Abdullahi Kuso attached to the Command was almost killed within the same location (Papalanto) recently, by suspected hoodlums.