A Customs officer has killed a civilian, Godwin Onoja, while allegedly trying to extort N5,000 bribe from travellers coming from Europe on the Sagamu end of the Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway.
It was gathered that the victim was shot during an altercation between the officers of the Federal Operations Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ikeja, Lagos, and some travellers, who boarded an Iyare Motors’ passenger bus travelling to Benin City from Lagos on Sunday.
One of the passengers, Mr Oliver Joseph, who lives in France, said he and the other passengers in the bus arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, on Saturday evening.
According to him, whenever he and his co-travellers get into Nigeria, they usually contract Iyare Motors to convey them to Benin from the Lagos airport.
He added that they booked the vehicle when they got to Nigeria, adding that the driver came to the airport on Sunday morning as arranged to convey them to Benin.
Joseph stated that when they got to the Sagamu intersection of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, some Customs officials asked the driver to stop.
He stated, “The driver stopped and asked them what the matter was. The driver told them that the bus belonged to Iyare Motors and it was pointless to ask him to stop. Immediately the driver parked, one of the officers came and asked who owned the luggage. The driver told him that the luggage belonged to the passengers. The customs officer asked us where we were coming from and we told him that we were coming from overseas and that we were here on a visit.
“He said he had interest in the luggage and needed to check them one by one. We told him that they had been checked at the airport. He replied that he must carry out his job and ordered us to alight from the bus. One of them then called the driver and asked him to give them N5,000 for them to allow us to go. We heard the driver saying that he did not have the money and that we did not have anything illegal. The driver then told us that the Customs officers demanded N5,000 from us.
“We eventually agreed that our luggage be searched and one of us insisted that he would record it so that they won’t place contraband in our bags. So, the guy brought out his iPhone 6, but one of the officers demanded to have the phone but the passenger refused, saying that the price of the phone could pay his salary.
“The officer just took some steps back, cocked his gun and fired. Immediately he fired, a man fell down. Before we knew it, one of the two Customs officers in green sweater ran into the bush, leaving the others. We were 10 passengers in the bus and when we took a headcount, we were complete. There was blood all over the victim’s face, so we could not recognise him.
“The officer tried to run away, but we held him by the uniform insisting that he had to follow us to the nearest police station.”
The manager of Iyare Motors, Benin City, Mr Aghimien Osahon, thanked God that none of the passengers lost their lives in the process.
He explained that the Customs officers were angered by the driver’s refusal to give them N5,000, adding that he did not know why they behaved the way they did.
“It was one of their men that they mistakenly shot dead and not any of our passengers. The officer, who fired the gun, wanted to shoot one of the passengers; as he cocked the gun, he opened fire on one of his men in mufti. We give God the glory,” Osahon added.
The Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr Joseph Attah, described the incident as quite unfortunate, adding that the victim was not one of the passengers, but a friend to the Customs men.
He said that the victim was from the neighbourhood and used to supply water to the Customs base on the road, adding that he happened to come around when there was an altercation between the passengers of the bus and the operatives.
According to him, the incident happened when the Customs operatives flagged down a passenger bus, adding that instead of the driver and the passengers to allow the operatives to conduct a routine check on the vehicle, they were cursing and calling them thieves.
He said in a statement that it was in the process of filming the Customs personnel at work by the passengers and also struggling to disarm an officer that a rifle carried by one of the operatives accidentally discharged and the bullet hit the man.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to a disturbing video going viral with conflicting narratives.
“While it is painful and totally unnecessary to lose a life in anti-smuggling operations, today at the Sagamu interchange along Ijebu Ode, an attempt to obstruct the lawful performance of duty by passengers of a commercial bus suspected to be carrying bales of used clothing led to the death of a young man, Godwin, and serious injuries to a Customs officer, Destiny Onebamho.
“Contrary to some narratives, the young man was not a passenger of the bus but a good citizen, who always come to fetch water for the Customs patrol men anytime they return to the base.
“Preliminary findings indicate that it was during the skirmishes and struggle to disarm the officer that the riffle discharged and the bullet hit the friend of the Customs, who lost his life.”
He said the service had already contacted the bereaved family, adding that the Customs personnel had been recalled to the office for further investigation.
The statement added, “It should be noted that while attention shifted to the dead and the wounded, the passengers, who filmed with inciting commentaries boarded their vehicle and left, leaving the wrong impression that it was one of them that was killed.
“While the wounded officer is in intensive care at the hospital, the patrol team has been recalled to the office for further investigation.”
When the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, was contacted, he said operatives of the command were able to rescue the Customs officer from being lynched by the angry mob, adding that the case would be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Eleweran, Abeokuta.
He said, “After the incident, a distress call was sent to the Divisional Police Officer of the Sagamu Police Station, who moved in with his men. When they got to the scene of the incident, they met the body of the deceased and the angry mob attacking a Customs officer. The police were able to rescue him and he has been taken to the hospital.
“The Customs vehicle has been taken to the police station and the case will be transferred to the SCIID on the order of the Commissioner of Police for investigation.”