Ogun Monarch Bemoans The Killing of Custom Operatives by Smugglers

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Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, the paramount ruler of Yewa Kingdom and Oba of Ilaro has condemned the recent killing of customs officers by suspected smugglers in Fagbohun village of Ogun state, during a condolence visit to the Acting Controller of Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Ikeja Lagos, Deputy Comptroller Hussein Ejibunu, and as well call upon President Muhammad Buhari to reconsider reopening of the land borders in the whole South West as it has caused more economic hardship to inhabitants of the affected communities.

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.

He as well appealed to the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) to help persuade the Federal Government over calls for reopening of the borders.

According to him, opened 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.

According to Royal Father: “We must review the continued closure so that we can separate the wheat from the chaff, the border closure is going almost two and half years, and there is nothing on ground to cushion the effects of the hardship currently faced by indigenes of the affected communities and Nigeria at large.

He further attributed the ugly situation at the border areas to violence and loss of lives inflicted by smugglers to the presence of miscreants who came from far and near to domicile for business adding that such atrocities against the customs Operatives who are doing their lawful duties were not from his subjects perse.

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 years makes life hard for them. Opening the border can be a source of empowerment for the people” he stated.

In responding, the acting Controller of the Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja, DC Ejibunu thanked the monarch for his concern and patriotism, while urging him to keep supporting the Service in the fight against smuggling and other.

According to the Controller, “smuggling kills the economy of any nation stressing that the Unit would not allow it to fester”

He however, agreed that there needs to be more constant engagement with the host communities at the border stations to lecture them on the intricacies and dangers inherent in such economic sabotage.

Ejibunu further disclosed that the paramount ruler’s visit was the first time the Unit was witnessing such Royal entourage to commiserate with the officers and men on the loss of their three operatives.

He said their visit would not be in vain as they would redouble their efforts in stamping out illegal trade across the western zone.

Ejibunu further reminded the Royal Father that “In October 2021, two customs officers were murdered in Ogun state, and their lifeless body was found on the Ipaja River after days of search.

“The recent killings of FOU A officers make it a total of three deaths recorded barely two months after my assumption of office, which the Service will evoke its rules of engagement and apply the full weight of the law against the killer smugglers.

“The unprovoked attacks by smugglers and hoodlums, with the communities aiding their illegal activities, forced the Customs to deploy the rules of engagement as enshrined in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 195, which mandated officers of the service to defend themselves when attacked” he added.

“It has become a tug of war. Our officers are being attacked and killed by smugglers, and communities cover up for them, saying they are innocent passers-by, some areas have become den for smugglers and, if not careful, bandits. Seven Customs officers and eight soldiers were wounded in an operation in and since then our officers have not been entering area because that place links many communities.

“These are areas the country needs to focus on to police very seriously. We are not going to accept that again; we are not goats.

“We have the backing of the law to bear arms; and to that extent, we will not hesitate to deploy the rules of engagement in such dangerous circumstances. Parents should warn their wards on the dangers of smuggling,” he stated.

He noted a new disturbing trend deployed by smugglers as the massive use of motorcycles to smuggle parboiled rice through bush paths not accessible to vehicles, adding that about 100 motorcycles had been seized.

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.

Ejibunu warned that the service will retaliate the attacks on its officers by smugglers and other criminals in the South West region of the country.

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 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 the 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 motorcycles 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.”

In Ejibunu’s words: “Those that engage in smuggling are considered economic saboteurs. Smuggling is a destroyer of the economy and it robs the nation of her revenue, hence affects provision of social services to entire community. Smuggling can destroy your health through importation of expired, fake, and other drugs. Smuggling paralyses our local industries. Smuggling is a drain on the foreign earnings of the nation, it encourages acts of criminality that can lead to armed robbery and other heinous crimes. Smuggling is an unpatriotic act that can lead one to jail.