Smugglers Attack: Nigeria Customs Personnel as Endangered Species

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Smugglers Attack: Nigeria Customs Personnel as Endangered Species

Chinazor Megbolu

The officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over decades have been coming under attacks by smugglers, who would stop at nothing to continuously carry out there deadly acts.

NCS officials in the line of duty trying to curtail the activities of this daredevil smugglers have found themselves becoming  endangered species in the hands of these group sometimes with support from host communities, who urge these smugglers on.

Casualties from clashes between the NCS men and smugglers are becoming a norm. It’s as old as the organisation itself. Clashes have been on a yearly basis.

The Federal Government revenue generating agency had on many occasions claimed they are only implementing and enforcing government policy.

According them, they have never drawn the first blood. It’s only when the smugglers attacks that they defend themselves and in the end, it results to either maiming or death on either side.

We fervently believe that there should be a strong penalty for smugglers if these acts on NCS men would  be brought to the barest minimum by the federal government. The judicial system should serve justice promptly on arrested smugglers to serve deterrent to others.

Again, those danger or black spots especially the bother posts, where most of these attacks take  place call for proper monitoring. There is need for these officers to be fully equipped and insured appropriately. The service should also embark on aggressive enlightenment campaign drive so there won’t be uniformed sympathizers for their dastardly acts of smugglers especially those communities who one way or the other, help them to carry out their dastardly acts.

Since the men of the NCS are doing lawful duty to keep away or curtail smuggling activities, there’s need for more vigilance and this can be done through human capacity development and incentives for those that man our border posts because if they move away from those spots the smugglers will capitalise more on such and have a field day.

Those in authorities should know for a fact, that these officers are carrying out their statutory duties, so,  they should not be left to die like chickens. Being customs officers does not make them less human, ways should be sought to safeguard their lives. If you keep exposing them to danger; fear and apprehension will set in and they will refuse to do what they should do or tactically dodge responsibilities.

These issues are sacrosanct now because of its rate of occurrence. Government attention is highly needed in the areas of intervention for the rank and file of the NCS.

As explicitly put by  the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Ogun 1 Area Command, Mr. Abdullahi Maiwada ,attacks between the men and officers of NCS and smugglers occur as the agency is just discharging its duties by enforcing Federal Government policy and adhering to rules of engagement while tackling smugglers.

“As an agency, we are discharging our responsibility and enforcing government policy. While enforcing such policy, we have to adhere by the rules of engagement guiding the principles of all our operations, which we are doing,”

he said.

Maiwada also noted that the only issue they normally clash with smugglers bothers on conflict of principles especially when cautioned on smuggling activities.

According to him; “the issue is that in a situation where you work with people that you have contracts in terms of principles, definitely, there will be collision”.

He explained further that the Service has mandate to stop smuggling, while smugglers are not ready to stop, which leads to the enforcement and implementation of government policy.

“We are to stop smuggling and the other side wants to smuggle. What do you expect to happen? There will be a collision definitely,” he said.

Maiwada, however, maintained that what the NCS is doing is simply implementation, persuasion and enforcement through sensitisation for smugglers to stop their nefarious acts and do the needful but failure to do so resorts to enforcement by the NCS.

“In the course of such enforcement, we are bound to have altercations. It’s obvious some of them are die-hard, recalcitrant and want to smuggle by hook or crook.

“We have no option than to enforce and in the process of enforcement, if it comes our way and they unleash any force, we’re bound to defend ourselves and that’s what we’re doing.

“Definitely, whatever they are doing, we have to defend ourselves. That’s what we’re doing with casualties sometimes from us and them.

“Last week, an incident took place where an officer was matcheted. Another incident involving some cult boys called ‘Eye boys’, during  which one of them lost his life because they attacked with different forms of weapons like cutlasses and we had to defend ourselves and one of them lost his life,”

Maiwada said.

The Customs spokesman further frowned at the unfortunate situation where people do say the agency’s personnel killed an innocent person going to farm or thereabout.

He said: “Unfortunately, somebody will say an innocent person going to farm was shot by NCS Officials. No! NCS officials won’t just start shooting without somebody triggering it.

“Somebody must have attacked them before they respond. Majorly, we think people who want to make smuggling a means of livelihood should change their ways of livelihood. It’s not allowed by law”.

Sometime in December, 2019, two customs officers of the Niger/Kogi Area Command were killed by bandits suspected to be smugglers on the Lokoja – Okene road in Kogi state.

The Public Relations Officer of the Command, Mr. Lomba Benjamin, in a statement issued in Minna, named the victims of the attack as Assistant Superintendent of Customs I, S. Ohiremen and Assistant Superintendent of Customs II, S. M. Omale, adding that a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, H. I. Oladapo, was injured by gunshots.

“On Thursday December 12, 2019 at 2200hrs, a team of patrol officers were attacked by armed bandits along Lokoja-Okene road, which resulted to the death of two officers while another officer was injured.

“Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service are only implementers of federal government policies, hence we urge every Nigerian citizen aggrieved toward losing his/her goods to engage the services of the court rather than resort to violence and killing of family men who are the bread winners of their families while serving their nation.”

The government needs to do the needful so that  the service will not rest on it’s oars but to continue working with other sister agencies towards nailing the armed bandits in connection to the attack on the officers and anyone found guilty should  be made to face the full wrath of the law.

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