by Dare Lawal
A tragic situation occurred on Thursday at the Seme border area of Lagos State. Some officials of the Nigerian Customs Service shot a 35-year-old man named Saturday Joel, and in retaliation, a mob allegedly led by a local chief killed a senior customs officer who did not even know about the incident.
Here’s how The Punch reported the story:
Eyewitnesses said Joel was hit by a stray bullet while some customs officers were trying to apprehend a motorist who was smuggling a red Volkswagen bus from Benin Republic into Nigeria.
It was learnt that after the shooting, some residents took to the streets in protest. The residents were said to have alleged that customs officials had killed at least three motorists this month under the pretext that they were smugglers.
It was learnt that in the ensuing pandemonium, the customs officials stationed in the area fled. However, a Superintendent of Customs, identified as J. I Motojelu, was said to have been driving by at the time.
PUNCH Metro learnt that in retaliation, the angry mob, led by a community leader, dragged the officer out of his Toyota Corolla car marked ABJ 663 DW, and killed him.
It was learnt that the irate mob, also set the deceased officer’s vehicle ablaze and set up bonfires at the centre of the road.
The culprits were said to have used the opportunity to steal some items that had previously been seized by customs.
A police source said, “Motojelu, who knew nothing about the incident was beaten to death. The mob opened a customs patrol van stationed nearby and took a G3 rifle with 30 rounds of ammunition kept inside it. They then set the vehicle ablaze.”
Sources told our correspondent that some customs officials and policemen later returned to the scene and fired shots to disperse the mob.
Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Razaq Fadipe, said his men attempted to put out the fire but they had to retreat because of the sporadic gunshots in the area.
It was learnt that the victim had been rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.
But the NCS Public Relations Officer, Seme Command, Ernest Olattah, said in a statement that the officer was killed while on his way to attend a meeting at the command.
He said, “We announce the gruesome killing of one of our senior officers by some smugglers in the Ashipa area of Seme around 9.50am on Thursday. The deceased officer, while in his official uniform, unarmed, and driving to the command’s headquarters for a routine meeting, was accosted by a mob who forced him out of his vehicle.
“Led by an identified chief of the community, the officer was murdered in cold blood, while his vehicle was set ablaze.”
The customs spokesman said efforts were on to apprehend the culprits adding that the customs had achieved many feats this year alone.
He said NCS operatives, due to their uncompromising stance against smuggling and the protection the nation’s economy, had come under series of attacks by smugglers and some unpatriotic elements that saw smuggling as their rights.
The PRO said, “Customs Area Controller of Seme Border, Othman Abdu Saleh, has in collaboration with sister government agencies including the police, commenced moves to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book. The controller posits that this unfortunate incident will not deter operatives of the command under his watch from carrying out their lawful duties.
‘’This is indeed a sad day for us here in this command, but let me emphasised that we are not relenting in the discharge of our duty as we will not allow the darkness of criminality to dampen the light of our service to Nigeria.”
Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, told our correspondent on the telephone that seven suspects had been arrested, adding that they would be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba.
She said, “Joel is recuperating at Badagry General Hospital while the slain customs officer has been deposited at the mortuary.”