By Ahmed Ajikobi
More facts emerged on Saturday on the recent clash between operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service and transporters, which led to loss of no fewer than five lives in Ilesha-Baruba in Baruten Local Government Area of Kwara State.
The Chairman, Baruten Garage in Ilorin, Alhaji Dauda Sodiq gave insight into the incident while speaking to our reporter at the weekend.
According to him, a member of his garage, Akeem Muftau, Zubair Ibrahim, Muhammed Qudus, a Fulani man and his son were reportedly shot dead by Customs operatives on the fateful day.
He recounted that the security agents had stopped a commercial motorist popularly known as ‘Sure Banker’, who was transporting passengers and food items to.
“The Customs officers asked him to drop money before they could allow him to pass. The transporter declined on the basis that he had earlier given them money.
This made them to drag him to their base. Passengers in another vehicle that saw how they were brutalising the driver, informed his son at the garage.
“The security operatives opened fire on the driver’s son and other members who were there to verify what they were told at the garage.
“Everyone ran for their dear lives. In the process one of our members here in Ilorin, Hakeem was hit by bullet and died.
“Two others who were indigene of Ilesha-Baruba, a Fulani man and his son, who were riding on a motorcycle, were also shot dead by the operatives.”
He, however, bemoaned extortion of transporters by operatives manning road blocks in the area.
Similarly another driver, Sulaiman Yahaya alleged that the Customs officers drove the vehicle of the transporter and loaded it with seized bags of foreign rice to implicate him.
He decried the extortion of transporters at the road blocks in the area.
“They bill us heavily, how much are we collecting from passengers? I have Gulf car. Any time they stop me. I paid nothing less than N2,000. They charge based on size of the car.”
It would be recalled that, in a statement made available to National Pilot by the Customs PRO stated that, “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. ”
He added that after a short period, the driver mobilised a large mob of organised smugglers and errant youths, armed with sticks, stones and locally made weapons.
“They attacked the operatives and overran the checkpoint. The operatives pulled back from the checkpoint with the seized vehicle. The mob then set the checkpoint and all operational items and property ablaze,” he said.
He further said that after destroying the first checkpoint, at about 11 pm the mob gathered more support in large numbers from mostly organised smugglers in other locations, to attack and destroy other operational checkpoints in the area.
“The mob proceeded on foot and in vehicles to the major Operational Base in Ilesha-Baruba, where arms and ammunition, vehicles, seizures and other operational items were kept.
“The operatives mobilised to deter the attack and protect the Operational Base. Therefore, the operatives had to fire warning shots to deter further attacks to overrun the base,” he said.
He stated that the deceased may have lost their lives when their vehicle somersaulted as operatives opened fire to stop their attempt to overrun the checkpoint.
Chado said that during the attack, a policeman sustained injuries and was moved for medical attention, as the operational team leaders in Ilesha-Baruba, immediately notified the Emir of the area, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and other resident security operatives.
By Ahmed Ajikobi