Abeokuta, the ogun State capital was thrown into confusion yesterday as customs officer chasing a vehicle suspected of conveying smuggled rice allegedly fired the driver which forced him to lose control, and ended up in a ditch.
Our correspondent learnt that this led to a protest by the transporters who in scores trooped to the headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), located on Quarry area of the town, over the alleged killing of their leader Saubana Onila, at Sowo village.
The protesters were however prevented by a combined team of the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and men of the State Vigilance Group from gaining entry into the Customs headquarters to forestall breakdown of law and order.
An eyewitness, who identified himself, as Sola Josiah, told Leadership that five commercial vehicles loaded with 25 bags of rice each, left the popular Kuto park in Abeokuta en-route Sagamu, when the incident happened.
Josiah claimed that the patrol team on sighting their convoy allegedly shot at one of the vehicles which made the driver to lose control forcing the vehicle to somersault and finally landed into a ditch.
Josiah alleged that officials of the Customs had collected a sum of N5,000 on each of the vehicle from their leaders at the Park before they embarked on the less than one hour trip.
He also claimed that four other people were seriously injured in the incident and that those injured had been taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment by their relatives.
The remains of the deceased were conveyed in a commercial cab to the Customs office by the protesters.
But in his reaction, the spokesperson of the revenue agency in the state, Usman Abubakar denied the claim that the deceased was shot.
According to him, the driver tried to escape arrest, drove dangerously and ended in a ditch.
He said, “The information at my disposal is that one of our patrol teams went on routine patrol this morning along Kobape-Sagamu Interchange. Based on credible information to them that some smugglers were coming through that route, they waylaid the smugglers.
“On sighting Customs vehicle, the occupants of those vehicles now started on top speed. In the course of the operation, one of the vehicles fell into a ditch. The occupants of that vehicle left and ran away. Our men now brought the vehicle down to Abeokuta station. So, that is the information I have. There was no shootout with anybody. Our men have no cause to shoot anybody. They are well trained and they operate according to international best practices.
“The police have been invited, we are on top of the situation. The matter is under investigation by the Customs and the police. So after a thorough investigation, we will now give you full details of what happened.”