Some irate youth at Owode in Ogun State, have protested the death of one of them killed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during a clash between the youth and operatives of the customs.
The young man, identified simply as Kunle, was said to have been killed on Monday at the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) parish in the area.
The Customs had stormed the church premises, claiming it discovered loads of smuggled bags of rice hidden in vehicles parked inside the church by suspected smugglers.
The young men in the committee then prevented the operatives from gaining access to the church. This led to a fight that resulted in Kunle’s death.
The Customs officials alleged that the youth were mobilised by suspected smugglers to protect the smuggled rice in the church premises.
Narrating the incident on Tuesday, one of the youths, who preferred not to be named, said: “They wanted to ransack the house of God, but we stopped them and they started shooting. One of our colleagues, Kunle is dead. We have mobilised today to teach them a lesson”.
However, spokesman of the Ogun State Command of the NCS, Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada, explained that the Customs officers shot in self-defence after being attacked by the youth.
Maiwada said: “As I speak to you, the situation is still not under control because a mob is threatening to attack our formation in Ajileti. The genesis of the whole issue started on Monday when our officers attempted to evacuate smuggled bags of rice from a CCC church in Owode. The smugglers mobilised the youth of the town and they attacked our men with dangerous weapons.
“Our men had to defend themselves by shooting to scare away the marauding mob. The youth attacked our officers with guns, stones, cutlasses and many other dangerous weapons. We had to defend ourselves, and our only means of defence is our rifles. Our officers had to do what we call ‘tactical withdrawal’ on Monday. Our men shot in the air to disperse the marauding mob and later withdrew back to our formation.
“Our rules of engagement allow our men to use their rifles if every other means of reconciliation fails. We needed to control the situation and defend ourselves. All these happened yesterday (Monday). However, today (Tuesday), the youth again mobilised themselves and started doing stop and search, looking for Customs officers to maim, because they were all armed with dangerous weapons.
“As I am talking to you, this mob has closed down the roads, looking for our men to attack. The situation is not currently under control and most of our men have withdrawn to Ajileti for safety reasons. Right now, we hear that the Army and Police are battling to prevent them from advancing to Ajileti.”
He added that “On January 5, 2019, we lost one of our officers to smugglers-induced mob action, and we would not allow such situation to repeat itself again.”