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Monday, 18 February 2019

Customs Officer Shoots Civilian ‘Friend’ Dead While Trying to Extort European Returnees

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.

Punch

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