By Ahmed Ajikobi
Controversy has continue to trail the clash between the men of Joint Border Operations Drill in Ilesha- Baruba , Kwara State and alleged smugglers.
The incident that claimed three lives and left many others injured, cause chaos in the area on Friday.
It was gathered that the operatives had harassed a motorist for allegedly refusing to bribe them.
This medium learnt that commercial drivers plying the route part with N100 to N500 at the road block mounted by the customs operatives.
According to a source who craved anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, the driver refused to bribe the Customs officer because he claimed to have earlier given them N100.
“The driver now drove off and was pursued by the operatives who caught up with him at the Sinawu market and was beaten.
“The driver mobilised people and that led to the clash on the fateful day,” he narrated.
The Nigeria Customs Service, Kwara Command, in its reaction yesterday, said the attack was organized by the smugglers who wanted to distract the operatives from doing their official duty.
This was disclosed by the Coordinator of Joint Border Operations Drill sector 3, Comptroller Olugboyega Peters in a statement issued over the matter and signed by the command’s Public Relations Officer ,Zakari Chado made available to National Pilot yesterday said that, the sector would do everything humanly possible, within the ambit of the law, to protect government property and ensure that peace prevailed at all cost.
Narrating the incident he said, “Sector 3 security operatives at Ilesha Baruba while conducting stop and search at a checkpoint along Saki – Ilesha Baruba axis, flagged down a Volkswagen Golf Vehicle (Red Colour with Registration No BDG 453 BH). However, the driver refused to stop hence the operatives pursued the vehicle which was successfully apprehended and moved back to the checkpoint for examination, wherein bags of foreign parboiled Rice were found loaded in the vehicle. During the pursuit, the driver abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene. After a short period, the driver mobilized a large mob of organised smugglers and errant youths armed with sticks, stones and locally made weapons attacked the operatives and overran the checkpoint. The operatives pulled back from the checkpoint with the seized Volkswagen Golf vehicle. The mob then set the checkpoint and all operational items and properties of the operatives at the checkpoint ablaze.
“During the attack, personnel of the NPF sustained degree of injuries and was evacuated for medical attention. However, reports indicate that the Officer is now in stable condition. The Team Leaders in Ilesha Baruba immediately notified the Emir of Ilesha Baruba, the DPO and other resident operatives who attempted to contain the mob all to no avail. Reports indicate that the mob attempted to lynch the Emir, who had to be evacuated from the scene. ”
A further attempt to overrun the major Operational Base in Ilesha-Baruba, where arms and ammunition, vehicles, seizures and other operational items were kept, was however met with stiff resistance from the operatives in the process of which the victim’s car somersaulted, leading to the death of the victims.
“The corpses of the 3 casualties from the mob were taken by the DPO under escort of own operatives and deposited at Baptist Hospital Saki in line with directives from the resident Nigeria Police Force Area Commander.”
The Joint Border Operations Drill called on parents, guardians, community leaders, religious leaders and opinion-moulders in the area, to caution their wards against violence as the sector execute its mandate to rid the nation of smuggling activities
However, in his reaction, the Emir of Ilesha-Baruba, Derekureke IV, HRH Prof. Halidu Ibrahim Abubakar condemned the action of the operatives.
Prof. Abubakar said that, there were no smugglers, adding that the customs cooked up the story to justify their actions.”
A driver was driving his car with passengers and they tried to stop him but he refused to stop. The operatives gave him hot chase. He was nabbed and his car taken to their base. The operatives loaded the rice into the car by themselves to indict the driver.
“The youths in the community that saw them when they pursued the driver, mobilised themselves to rescue him. In the process three people died and about seven to nine others sustained gunshot injury.”
Then Monarch noted that his community is about 140 kilometers away from the official border and 70 kilometers to unofficial borders.
“We know that smugglers smuggle goods but the affected people are ordinary persons doing their day to day activities. The Customs just gave impression that it was a gang of smugglers, which is wrong. It is just for the sake of justifying their bad action.”
The Emir noted further that extortion led to the fracas as the operatives extort commercial drivers in that area.
“This started since the JBOD operatives have been deployed to our community. They are the cause of the matter. We have been with Customs, Police, Civil Defense, among others for a very long time and there were no issues. But when the JBOD came up things started to fall apart.”
Prof Abubakar, said that, he had to meet with security operatives including, Area Commander of Police, Area Commander of Civil Defense, OS DSS Customs, youths among others to maintain peace and order in the community.
When contacted on the matter, the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Muhammed Lawal Bagega said the issue was being investigated
Meanwhile, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, has commiserated with Emir of Ilesha- Baruba Alhaji Prof. Halidu Abubakar and the people of Baruten Local Government Area over the loss of lives during a face-off between the security personnel and members of the locality.
Alhaji Sulu-Gambari in his condolence message implored security agencies to always adopt civil measures in addressing issues that can truncate the peaceful co-existence and harmonious working relationship among the entire populace.
“The killings in Baruten Local Government Area are quiet unfortunate and alien to us in Kwara. I pray that such ugly and unwarranted incidence never happen again”, he added.
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has also commiserated with families of those who died in the Friday fracas
The Governor sincerely commiserates with the Emir of Ilesha Baruba Prof. Halidu Abubakar and families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident. The incident is sad and definitely avoidable, according to a statement by Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye.
“He cautions against any activities that could trigger new tensions.
“A government delegation is to pay a condolence visit to the affected community while findings will be conducted to establish all the facts and forestall a repeat of the sad and unfortunate incident.”
Similarly, Speaker, Kwara state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Engr. Yakubu Danladi Salihu has expressed displeasure over the clash
In a statement issued by the Special Assistant on Media to the Speaker, Ibrahim Sheriff, the lawmaker lamented the circumstances
“I am sad and displeased to receive news of the ugly incident that claimed lives of young and promising members of my constituency and left scores injured in Ilesha Baruba. My condolences to His Royal Highness, Emir of Ilesha Baruba – Prof. Halidu Abubakar, families of dead victims of the incident and wish the injured quick recovery.”
By Ahmed Ajikobi