Stories by Ahmed Ajikobi
The Kwara State Police command has denied involvement of a police officer simply identified as Awodi in the recent clash between smugglers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Ilorin, penultimate Tuesday.
The affected customs officers had named the police officer in the attack launched on them by smugglers at Sawmill area on the fateful day.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ajayi Okasanmi in a telephone chat on Friday, said the command has not declared any officer wanted over the issue, as being speculated.
According to him, the rumour was fueled by mistaken identity, adding that the police has carried out investigation on the matter.
He explained : ” When we got the call that one of our men was involved in the attack, we launched an investigation into the matter and discovered our officer is innocent of the act.
“It is true that there is one of our officers popularly called Awodi serving in Alapa jurisdiction and coincidentally a vehicle belonging to one of the smugglers, had the inscription ‘ Awodi ‘ on it, so people thought it belonged to our officer.
“According to report, smugglers attacked customs officers because their goods were confisticated. The smugglers mobilised hoodlums from Alapa to help retrieve their goods.
Okasanmi further stated that the police initially arrested the smugglers and later released them when the issue was resolved.
“The customs rearrested the smugglers. The issue is now under their control. You can get the details through NCS command, “he divulged.
But, the Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Custom Service, Kwara State, Stella Okpo, denied knowledge of arrest of anyone involved in the clash.
Fielding questions from our reporter in her office on Thursday, she said investigation into the issue is ongoing and promised to get back to this medium as soon as it is concluded.
“The officers involved are writing examination. When they are through with it, we will continue with the investigation. The police has done their investigation, we are doing ours too,” she added.
It would be recall that reports had it that, a police corporal, simply identified as Awodi and a man whom the police referred to as Asake alongside some hoodlums allegedly attacked a patrol team of Nigeria Custom Service in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The police officer and the smugglers were said to have ambushed the Customs team on an official duty along the Alapa Road, Ilorin, overpowering them in the process.
The team was said to be led by a Chief Superintendent of Customs, Mr. A.L. Maciver, while other members were S.C. Basheer; O.I. Iloba; M.I. Ayinla, Mangai, and Odo P.
According to reports, Maciver said the incident happened when they went on a patrol after receiving information that smugglers had hidden bags of imported rice in two golf vehicles in a bush.
He added that when the team arrived at the location in the bush, the smugglers fled with the keys of the vehicles after sighting the patrol.
Maciver said because the vehicles that carried the contraband were rickety, the Customs patrol team evacuated the contraband rice into their two patrol vehicles.
He said, “After we had left the scene of the interception, on our way to the Customs office in Ilorin with the bags of rice, one Asake mobilised four Volkswagen Golf vehicles loaded with people suspected to be thugs and pursued our patrol vehicles with the assistance of a police corporal identified as Awodi. They forcefully offloaded all the bags of rice after partially destroying our customs patrol vehicles.
“The road construction work along Geri Alimi Roundabout in Ilorin slowed down the efforts of our men from moving fast. The police corporal and the thugs caught up with us and forcibly offloaded the rice into their vehicles.
“Due to the presence of innocent people around the scene of the incident, we could not open fire on the thugs to guard against shooting innocent people.”