By Derin Olatunji
A man was reportedly killed by Custom officials yesterday Sunday, 17th February, 2019.
The incident was said to have occurred at the Sagamu Interchange along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway during a struggle between custom officials and passengers of a travelling bus.
An Iyare Motors bus carrying 10 passengers from Lagos to Benin was said to have been flagged down and stopped by Operations Unit officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Viral videos of the incident can be found on twitter and all over the internet.
According to the eye-witness report of Mr Oliver Joseph, one of the passengers, they had just come into the country from France and were heading to Benin, when custom officials stopped their bus and one of them asked to know where they were coming from and who owned the luggage in the trunk. The driver of the bus informed him that it belonged to the passengers who also answered that they were coming from abroad and were on their way to Benin.
The officer then demanded to search the luggage one by one, to which the passengers refused saying they had been checked and cleared at the airport. At this point, the officer instructed the passengers to alight from the bus as it was mandatory for them to search the luggage in fulfilment of their duties.
Mr Oliver further said that at one point the driver informed the passengers that another officer had asked for N5,000 bribe in order to let them go, to which he had replied that he did not have it. After the passengers agreed to allow their luggage to be searched, one of them took out his phone to make a recording and ensure nothing illegal was planted. He was of course asked to submit the phone but refused to do so. At which point, the officer aimed his gun and fired, killing a plain-clothed man on the spot.
One of the officers fled into the bush and the others who tried to leave the scene were held down by the passengers and onlookers.
None of the passengers was injured as a headcount was conducted and they were found to be complete.
Mr Joseph Attah, the Public Relations Officer for the NCS in his statement stated that the incident while unfortunate was an accident and was caused during the struggle for the phone between the officers and passengers.
“While it is painful and totally unnecessary to lose lives in anti-smuggling operations, today at Sagamu Interchange along Ijebu Ode, attempt to obstruct lawful performance of duty by passengers of a commercial bus (a white Toyota Hiace) suspected to be carrying bales of used clothing led to the death of a young man (Godwin) and serious injury of a Customs Officer ASC 1, Destiny Onebanho.
Contrary to some narrative, the young man was not a passenger of the bus but a good citizen who always comes to fetch water for Customs patrol men anytime they return to base. Preliminary findings indicate that it was during the skirmishes and struggle to disarm the officer that the rifle discharged and the friend of the Customs (Godwin) who lost his life.
The Service is already in touch with bereaved family.
Sadly, it should be noted that while attention shifted to the dead and the wounded, the passengers who filmed with incited commentary boarded their vehicle and left, leaving the wrong impression that it was one of them that was killed.
While the wounded officer is under intensive care at the hospital, the patrol team has been recalled to the office for further investigation.
DC Joseph Attah
Public Relations Officer
For: Comptroller-General of Customs”
The case has been transferred to the SCIID – State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Eleweran, Abeokuta.