Some yet-to-be identified operatives of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) yesterday shot three people dead at the Alakuko area of Lagos State. After shooting the three persons while chasing some alleged smugglers, the operatives then clashed with some policemen who wanted to arrest them.
It was gathered that the customs officers, who were from the Federal Operation Unit (FOU), were chasing the suspected smugglers conveying rice, when they shot at the vehicle, killing three persons. When alerted, policemen from the Alakuko Division were said to have tried to apprehend the customs officers, who then shot sporadically to scare away the police and other passers-by, who tried to arrest them.
When they successfully evaded arrest, sympathisers and onlookers, were said to have taken to the streets in protest. However, hoodlums hijacked the protest and started molesting motorists and passersby, while they smashed some vehicle windows. The incident, coupled with the protest, expectedly caused a major traffic gridlock along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway as the hoodlums barricaded the road. A witness, John Ogbu, said: “It was around 7a.m. while I was standing in front of my shop to observe yesterday’s sanitation, two vehicles drove recklessly as they were being pursued by a customs patrol vehicle. “The custom officials were firing at the vehicles and passersby were hit by bullets.
I also saw some policemen trying to block the customs men from escaping and there was an exchange of gun fire between the two services.” Meanwhile, a senior customs official who spoke on anonymity said: “We were doing our job of arresting some rice smugglers and the police jumped into the fray by aiding and abating them. “In the process, there was a shootout between us. I can’t say what transpired, three persons were shot.
I cannot say who fired the shot but all I can say is that we were doing a legitimate job when the police obstructed us.” Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, however said only one person was allegedly shot dead by the customs. She said: “What happened was that this morning, at about 7a.m., customs officials were on the trail of a vehicle, in the process, they went berserk and started shooting and killed one Saheed Omotosho.
His brother Rasheed was taken away to an unknown destination. The identity of the Custom men is not known. “The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Alakuko mobilised his team to the scene to maintain peace.” However, the spokesman for FOU, Jerry Attah, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs(ASC) said: “We have no problems with the police. “ It was a problem between smugglers and the customs officers. We have arrested onebsuspect and the exhibits are with us.” Although there are was still palpable tension in the area as at press time, the operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), led by its commander, Tunji Disu, and policemen from Alakuko Division were still at the scene to maintain law and order.