Saturday, 21 November 2020 01:48

#EndSARS: How hoodlums attacked customs officers in Ogun, flooded markets with contraband

FOR three days last month, mayhem was unleashed like a volcano on several border communities in Ogun State. Between Tuesday October 20 and Thursday October 22, 2020, suspected hoodlums hijacked the nationwide EndSARS protest against police brutality and attacked customs men at checkpoints and outstations across the border communities in Ipokia, Ado Odo/Ota, Imeko Afon Yewa South and Yewa North Local Government Areas of Ogun State.

The minions were hunted, beaten, chased away from their duty posts, checkpoints, outstations and makeshift tents, with their patrol vehicles razed by suspected smugglers who seized the moment to bring in contraband ranging from foreign rice to assorted commodities and vehicles unhindered.

At the Ihunbo, Oke Ore axis of the popular Idiroko Road, Ijoun in Yewa North Local Government Area and Ilara in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area, customs men were sacked from their border posts by hoodlums who subsequently had a field day smuggling bags of rice on motorcycles from neighbouring Benin Republic into the country.

It was said that the hoodlums went into jubilation after sacking the Customs officials from their checkpoints and flooded the markets with contraband, especially foreign rice, so much so that the price of the commodity crashed from N22,000 to N15,ooo in one fell swoop.

At the popular Owode market, the staple which hitherto sold for N22,000 was sold between N14,000 and N15,000.

At about 9 am on Tuesday October 20, hundreds of hoodlums armed with dangerous weapons, including machetes, axes, guns and charms, attacked a Customs patrol base at Oke Ore, Yewa South Local Government Area.

A customs officer, Solomon Alagye, was shot dead in an attack by the suspected hoodlums.

According to sources, the slain officer was not the target, but his colleague identified as Mukaila Oladipupo Lawal, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs (ASC) popularly called MK, who had been a thorn in the flesh of smugglers around the axis.

It was said that the hoodlums were actually a group of smugglers based in Ado- Odo area, whose contraband the said ASC Lawal had been intercepting in recent times despite the pleas made to him by the owners.

An eyewitness said: ”When the hoodlums who are smugglers based in Ado Odo community stormed the customs checkpoint at Oke-Ore, they targeted Officer Mukaila Oladipupo Lawal, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs (ASC), and searched everywhere, calling out his name, but he had narrowly escaped.

“It was in an attempt to disperse the mob that Officer Alagye was killed by the rampaging hoodlums, who also set ablaze the tent used as checkpoint by customs men.

“Officer Alagye was actually killed by a stray bullet fired by the hoodlums during the mayhem. The late Algye was a brave and brilliant officer who went about his duty diligently but lost his life in an unfortunate incident.”

It was said that the hoodlums went to Lawal’s residence to possibly fish him out but his family had been moved to an unknown location before the mob got to his home.

“They went to his house thinking that they would meet him at home and harm him, but he was not at home while his wife and children were said to have been moved into safety before the hoodlums arrived there,

“Lawal was then picked on by smugglers cum hoodlums because of his no nonsense posture at work which has earned him praises from his superiors,” the source added.

After they had succeeded in sacking customs men from Idiroko Road, an attempt was made to attack the Idiroko border post which overlooks Igolor Market in Benin Republic, but a joint drill team of customs men and soldiers from 192 Battallion in Owode repelled the mob.

At Ijoun, a customs base was destroyed and officers chased away. The hoodlums moved to Ilara area of Imeko-Afon, where they also attacked a customs base and forcibly opened the border for influx of rice smugglers who moved thousands of bags of rice into the community and ferried them into the townships.

“They opened up the borders after they successfully sacked customs men at Ilara, heralding a free day for smugglers  who used motorcycles to move in hundreds of bags of foreign rice, frozen turkey, chicken and vegetable oil, among others, into various markets and warehouses in Lagos and Ogun communities”

At Oko Eye and Oke Odan axis of Idiroko Road, some customs checkpoints manned by men of Ogun 1 Customs Area Command and Strike Force Team of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A were attacked and razed. However, no patrol vehicles were set ablaze as the minions had moved their operation vans away from sight.

The hoodlums also blocked the Iyana Ago, a stone’s throw to Idiroko border, and prevented motorists and commuters from passing through the area for more than one week.

Customs men around the Ilaro/Oja- Odan/Obele border post between Yewa South and Yewa North Local Government Areas were also not spared as they also suffered multiple attacks at their duty posts.  The hoodlums, wielding machetes and guns, also destroyed and ransacked their tents, carting away sundry items, including uniforms.

An eyewitness who said there was no shooting during the attack, said the hoodlums were sighted with bags of foreign rice and other contraband from neighbouring Benin Republic.

“The Customs men fled their duty posts and ran for their dear lives when the hoodlums stormed their base and smugglers brought in all kinds of contraband for about five hours,” he said.

It was said that the hoodlums went into wild jubilation after sacking the Customs men from their checkpoints.

“The hoodlums celebrated the sacking of the customs men as they went into frenzy, singing and dancing as if 

while a number of seizures and recoveries had been made.

He said: ”Following the recent nationwide EndSARS protest hijacked by hoodlums and smugglers particularly at the border areas, our Area Command suffered vicious attacks in which an officer (AIC Solomon Alayge) was killed and others were injured.

“In the early hours of Thursday, 22nd of October, 2020, many of our patrol teams were attacked. Their patrol bases were vandalised and set ablaze. Our officers and men were trapped as a result of the multiple attacks suffered along Oja-Odan, Ilaro (along Ilaro/Oja- Odan/Obele border), Ihunbo, Adesba, Owode (along Idiroko axis), Ijoun and Imeko. Many of our personnel’s belongings including uniforms and other valuables were looted. Many of our patrol vehicles were also vandalized.

“In a move that looked like a premeditated action, the hoodlums/smugglers in large numbers seized the opportunity of the security challenge which made all the security agencies to focus on protecting their operatives and facilities, embarked on massive smuggling of rice and vehicles for about three days.

“However, the Command afterwards intensified effort by strengthening her workforce with reinforcement from the military. This helped in beefing up security and restoring control in the Command.”

The controller also disclosed that his men foiled an attempted attack on government owned warehouses and other facilities in Abeokuta.

He said the attack would not stop his men from carrying out their statutory roles no matter the effort made to frustrate them in their lines of duty.

“He said: We wish to reiterate that the continued attack on operatives of NCS and other sister agencies will not deter us from performing of our legitimate duties. appeal to parents and guardians to prevail on their children, wards and youths to desist from such criminal acts as smuggling and attack on security agents.

“It is important to note that activities of the Command are patriotic duties in the interest of national security and economic wellbeing of Nigeria.

“NCS operatives, in observance of the rules of engagement, will continue to carry out its legitimate duties as prescribed by law.”

Speaking further, Agbara said a number of smuggled goods were either recovered or intercepted from smugglers with support from sister security agencies.

“In the same vein, with bravery and gallantry of officers and men of the Command coupled with the maximum support of the military, the Command made the following seizures after the restoration of law and order across our borders:  2,947 bags of rice, 1,875 litres of premium motor spirit (petrol), 18 vehicles, 4 motorcycles, 10 sacks and 1,658 pieces of cannabis sativa, 159 cartons of sugar, 30 cartons of tomato paste, 12 cartons of cosmetics and soaps, 19 cartons of insecticide and 7 kegs of vegetable oil (25 litres each).”

He added: “It is worthy of note that the Command, during the third quarter of year 2020, successfully recorded 420 seizures comprising 11,146 bags of foreign parboiled rice (50 kg each), an average of 18 trailer loads per month; 86 vehicles; 39 motorcycles (used in conveying smuggled items); 10 kegs of vegetable oil (25 litres each); 81 bales in 34 sacks of secondhand clothes; one sack and 1,344 pairs of used shoes; 1,814 cartons of frozen poultry products; 299,450 litres of PMS (petrol); 127 Kegs of palm oil (25 liters each); 1,225 litres of diesel; 75 litres of kerosene and other sundry contraband items with a total duty paid value (DPV) of N397,076,991 (N397 million)

“Despite the precarious situation experienced recently by the Command, we will continue to dialogue, engage, sensitise and educate the public on social/economic implications of smuggling as well as perform our statutory function of enforcing compliance with government’s fiscal policies.”

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