Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, the paramount ruler of Yewa Kingdom and Oba of Ilaro has condemned recent killing of customs officers by suspected smugglers in Fagbohun village of Ogun State during a condolence visit to Acting Controller of Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Hussein Kehinde Ejibunu in Lsgos
Oba Olugbenle who described the Incident as regrettable and uncalled for also lauded the maturity and professionalism with which the NCS is handling the matter.
The monarch also appealed to the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali to help persuade the Federal Government over calls for reopening of the borders.
According to him, reopened borders will ease tension in the area as people will go about their legitimate trans border activities like clearing and forwarding of items not under import or export prohibition.
The king added that some of the suspected smugglers are not residents of the border communities but only come to villages and border towns to carry out their illegal activities.
“I have visited the scene of the incident in Fagbohun and commend the maturity with which Nigeria Customs Service handled the matter as there was no reprisal or casualty on the part of the community.
“Living in a border area is supposed to be a blessing but now we hardly sleep at night over the unlawful activities of smugglers.
Some miscreants have relocated to the border areas and should be sent packing.
“After causing trouble they will return to wherever they came from leaving the real people to bear the consequences of their unlawful activities
“We have to keep engaging and enlightening our communities.Government should take a second look at the closure of the border for the benefits of legitimate trading activities in the areas. Some of the indigenous people were gainfully employed with clearing and forwarding companies
“I want to appeal to the CGC to see how the border closure can be reviewed. He should help us reach out to the Federal Government. Cutting people away from their source of living for two years makes life hard for them.
Reopening the border can be a source of empowerment for the people” the monarch said.
Responding Ejibunu thanked the monarch for his concern and patriotism while urging him to keep supporting the service in the fight against smuggling.
Two customs officers were last month murdered in Ogun with the lifeless body of them found in a Ipaja river after days of search
The recent killings of FOU A officers brings to three deaths recorded barely two months of assumption of office in Lagos by Ejibunu, for which he said the service will evoke it’s rules of engagement and apply full weight of the law against the killer smugglers.
He had told reporters that “It is on a sad note that I make this presentation. On the 11th day of September, 2021, a gallant officer of the Federal Operations Unit, while performing his statutory functions, was matchetted to death after seizure of about 45 bags of rice was made.
” On October 16th, 2021, my officers were ambushed along Abeokuta-Shagamu interstate road after intercepting about 24 vehicles laden with foreign parboiled rice, 12 of which was intercepted and on their way to Lagos.
“On their way to Lagos, the officers were ambushed and shot at; two of them sustained injuries and are, at the moment, still recuperating from the incident. Eventually, my officers succeeded in arresting one of the suspects with four vehicles laden with rice.
“On the 26th of October, after this second attack, my officer were on patrol in Fagbohun village in Ogun State when they were ambushed again. Two of them were initially declared missing; we discovered the corpse of one of them the next day by the river while the second one was missing until this afternoon; his body was found dumped inside the river, and is on its way to the morgue.
“These unprovoked attacks are getting too much for me to bear. I am saying this for all Nigerians to hear, if this had been the other way around, the whole world would have been awash with cries of “Customs officers killing this, killing that”. But nobody is saying anything now.
“I want to put it on record that these murdered officers are husbands, sons, fathers, uncles and breadwinners. A situation in which an officer performing his lawful duty is being killed criminally is not acceptable.
“These gallant officers paid the Supreme price, and I want it on authority and record now that our people should alert the authorities, most especially our leaders in the National Assembly; I want them to take note of this, because no life is worth more than another.
“It is not going to be business as usual, because the borders of Ogun are under lock and key. Smuggling is not a right, nor is it an activity that is supposed to be given to a generation. It is not acceptable to us, or to the nation, and it is alien to the constitution.
“We have the constitutional responsibility to ensure that the economy of the country moves further, and it is within our purview to ensure that whoever is found sabotaging the economy is duly prosecuted.
“In light of all the killings, we are not going to take it again, and I will not hesitate to invoke what the law gave us power to do. It is unfortunate at this trying period of the nation; a border that is not yet opened for business, they believe smuggling should thrive. We will not accept that.
“Just before coming here, a spokesperson to the state government put a call through to me, assuring me that they will assist us in getting the perpetrators. It was later confided that the Ogun State government is on the verge of banning the use of Okada, because that is the mode of smuggling now. It will be a welcome development.
“Let us hope that this will be the last time I will address such issues, and they will not hesitate to apply the rules of engagement. I am making it clear that when we continue to do our activities, I don’t want anybody blaming us, because it is evident now that we should strive to make sure we return alive.
It is against the law to obstruct an officer while on duty. And we are going to put that into practice, not only when we come under attack, but if there is any little infringement, you will be arrested and prosecuted as well.
“I read out the Riot Act, and I’m saying that enough is enough. I am saying it loud and clear, so that we won’t be blamed in case you see or hear of any fracas. That is exactly where I’m going. I see no reasons why there should be senseless killings, when nobody attacked them”