The House of Representatives has accused the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of negligence in the alleged killing of five persons by officers of the service in Iseyin, Oyo State, on May 13, 2021.
The House made the accusation yesterday during the commencement of investigative hearings on the killings by its committee on Customs and Excise, which was chaired by Hon. Leke Abejide.
Recall that on the fateful day, the officers allegedly killed five persons after shooting sporadically in an attempt to accost some suspected rice smugglers.
Speaking at the hearing, the families of the deceased persons who were led by Mr. Tijani Rasaki, said the victims were not smugglers but indigenes of Iseyin who were going about their lawful duties.
Rasaki explained that Iseyin is located about 200 kilometres from the nearest border.
He pointed out that the customs officers involved in the shooting crossed about 50 towns before getting to Iseyin where the unfortunate incident occurred.
He demanded for compensation for the victims’ families, adding that that was not the first time such incident had happened in the community and that the people were fed up with the excesses from the customs.
However, in his presentation, a legal representative of the NCS, Mr. Umar Lawal, alleged that on the said day a mob from the area attacked the officers who were on patrol and intercepted and seized bags of foreign rice being conveyed in two pathfinder SUVs.
Lawal alleged further that the suspected smugglers escaped and incited a mob against the officers to dispossess them of the seizure.
He said the mob blocked the officers who fired shots into the air to disperse them before taking the seized items to their base in Iseyin.
He further said the mob regrouped in larger numbers and attacked their base with cutlasses, sticks, stones and sundry weapons that left two customs officers seriously injured.
He said that customs personnel were empowered by law to kill if attacked with weapons but denied that the officers killed anyone that day.
However, members of the committee frowned at customs’ denial of the killings and accused the NCS of twisting words.
A member of the Committee, Hon. Shaaba Ibrahim, pointed out that the agency admitted that they fired into the air to disperse the people, saying that the testimony did not add up.