No fewer than seven persons reportedly sustained severe injuries during a confrontation between men of the Nigeria Customs Service and smugglers in Ogun State on Tuesday.
Reports reaching Naija News at this time confirmed that the clash which happened around the Sagamu Interchange, along the Abeokuta expressway has claimed a life.
Three officers of the NCS and an army officer is said to have also sustained bullet wounds in the clash with the rice traders. The chaos reportedly started after some rice traders transporting rice to Sagamu from Abeokuta yesterday ran into customs operatives attached to the Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Lagos.
Naija News learnt that the NCS officers tried to intercept the goods, but there was a disruption by some hoodlums allegedly working with the suspected smugglers. A development that resulted in the gunfire exchange.
Further reports revealed that the customs officials called for reinforcement and were joined by soldiers in the gun battle. Speaking to newsmen on the matter on Tuesday evening, a source said those who sustained gunshot injuries were rice traders and not smugglers.
He said, “We buy rice from Abeokuta and sell to our customers in Sagamu. Whenever we get our goods from here and we see customs on the road, we normally do bookings with them.
“But to my surprise this morning (Tuesday), after doing bookings, on our way going after Siun junction, another set of customs intercepted our goods from the same Federal Operations Unit.
“We were like, ‘What happened? We met your people over there. What happened?’ They called soldiers for backup. Soldiers squatted on the road and started shooting. Four people were injured.”
Other members of the traders in their reaction to the incident, reportedly staged a protest on Tuesday, February 2.
When contacted on the matter, the spokesman for the FOU, Ikeja, Theophilus Duniya, described the incident as a mob attack on customs officers by hoodlums working with smugglers.
He noted that the operatives, acting on intelligence, intercepted six vehicles laden with foreign parboiled rice on the Abeokuta Expressway. “Upon the interception, some armed hoodlums working in support of smugglers swiftly mobilised 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 took three of the intercepted vehicles to a warehouse,” he added.
Though silent about the death recorded, Duniya said the wounded officers were receiving treatment, adding that investigation was ongoing to bring the perpetrators of the attack to book.
The traders have, however, demanded the intervention of the government to curb attacks by customs. They stated this when they stormed the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, to protest against the attack.
In another news earlier, Naija News reported that the Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service announced the interception of sacks containing lion bones and pangolin billed for export to South Asian country, Vietnam.