Rice traders in Ogun State on Tuesday staged a protest following a clash between their members and operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service.
One person was reported to have died during the clash, which occurred along the Sagamu Interchange/Abeokuta Expressway, Ogun State.
No fewer than seven others were said have been injured in the incident.
Our correspondent gathered that among those who sustained bullet injuries were three customs officers and a soldier.
Trouble started when some traders conveying rice to Sagamu from Abeokuta on Tuesday ran into customs operatives attached to the Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Lagos, who intercepted the goods.
A source said there was resistance from some hoodlums allegedly working with the suspected smugglers, leading to crossfire with the security operatives.
Our correspondent further gathered that the customs officials called for reinforcement and were joined by soldiers in the gun battle.
The 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.”
But in a statement issued also yesterday by spokesperson for the FOU Customs in Ikeja, Mr Theophilus Duniya, he explained that officers of the Unit, while carrying out their statutory duty of enforcing anti-smuggling laws; acted on intelligence and intercepted six vehicles laden with foreign parboiled rice at Abeokuta Express Way.
“Some officers of Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘A’ of Nigeria Customs Service, suffered an attack by hoodlums working with smugglers. Yesterday Tuesday 2nd February, 2021”, her added.
He informed that upon the interception, some armed hoodlums working with the support of smugglers swiftly mobilized themselves and attacked the officers in their bid to prevent the seizure from being taken away.
He stated that in the cross fire that ensued, men of the FOU Zone A overpowered the hoodlums and were able to evacuate three out of the intercepted vehicles to the warehouse.
He said, sadly three Customs officers and a soldier sustained some bullet injuries from the attack.
The wounded officers he said, are currently receiving treatment at the customs medical facility, while stating that further investigation into bringing the perpetrators of the attack to book has commenced.
He noted that the Acting Controller of the unit; Usman Yahaya 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.
He urged 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 stormed the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, to protest against the attack.
They demanded the intervention of the government to curb attacks by customs
The Secretary to the State Government, Tokunbo Talabi, who addressed them, assured of immediate interface with relevant authorities.
He also assured that the medical bills of the four victims would be taken care of by the state government.