A committee of the House of Representatives has commenced an investigative hearing into the alleged killing of five persons in Iseyin, Oyo State, in May by some officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
A shootout between Customs officials and rice smugglers had resulted in the killing of some residents in Iseyin, a town in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State.
Speaking at the investigative hearing on Tuesday, a representative of the families of the victims, Tijani Razak, demanded compensation for the bereaved families.
Razak said the community where the incident occurred is about 200 kilometres from the nearest border, and that the Customs officers were not supposed to invade the town to arrest smugglers.
“But they came into the town where the people do not know what is going on between the NCS and the smugglers. They killed five persons instantly and some survived with gunshot injuries,” he said.
“This is not the first time this is happening in the town. We can count two to three incidents; and that is why the community head said it is enough.
“Those killed are survived by wives, children and dependents. They are not smugglers. We are praying this committee to look into the matter deeply to see how Customs can perform their functions so that it won’t affect the people and all the surrounding towns.
“We do not know how the officers were performing their duty that the smuggled goods crossed almost 50 towns before coming to Iseyin, about 200 kilometres from the border.
“We want compensation for the deceased because they have dependents. We pray this committee to help us ensure those affected are compensated.”
But Umar Lawal, assistant legal adviser of NCS, denied that there was any incident of killing on the day, saying its officers only averted a mob action.
“Men of the NCS are not supposed to be interrupted when performing their duty by virtue of the law. In the event that ensued while they were conveying the seizure, the mob tried to attack the officers on the road,” he said.
“Looking at what was going on, the officers swiftly shot into the air to disperse the mob and successfully dispersed the mob and conveyed the seizure to their base at Iseyin.
“Having arrived at the base, a mammoth crowd arrived at the base wherein two officers were caught by the mob and injured and they were taken to a hospital in Ibadan and were referred to Lagos for treatment.
“So, the leader of the base made a call and contacted the Nigerian Army for help. Before the arrival of the army, the mob dispossessed one of the injured officers of his rifle.
“When the soldiers arrived, they worked with the officers on the ground, recovered the rifle and restored calm in the area. The mob was armed with cutlasses, sticks and were pelting the officers with stones, and inflicted machete cuts on the officers. Nobody was killed by men of the NCS. There was no incident of killing.”
Not satisfied by Lawal’s explanation, the committee accused the officers of negligence.
Leke Abejide, chairman of the committee, ruled that Customs Area Controller and the Deputy Controller should appear before the lawmakers to offer more explanation on the killings.