The Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Ogun 1 Area Command, Peter Kolo, has said the killing of innocent souls by stray bullets fired by customs officers has stopped in Ogun State.
Kolo said the many unwarranted clashes between customs officers and smugglers had been curtailed to stop the death of innocent people, adding that “we have not killed an innocent soul in the past eight months.”
DAILY POST recalls that cases of customs killings became more worrisome in Ogun border communities in Ipokia, Yewa North and Yewa South between 2019 and 2020.
In December 2020, youths and lawmakers from Ogun West took to the streets to protest the killing of their youths, many of whom they alleged were killed by bullets fired by customs officers while chasing smugglers within the communities.
But, the Comptroller, Kolo revealed that since he assumed office in Ogun 1 Command eight months ago, there has not been any incident of killing.
This, he said, was made possible because he had visited traditional rulers and other major stakeholders in the area to listen to their complaints.
Kolo stated that the command under his watch is employing intelligence gathering to ensure seizures are done at the point of hoarding, saying that has since stopped chasing smugglers within the streets.
In an interview with DAILY POST, Kolo said: “When I came to this state, as a way of enhancing public relations, I embarked on visit to our traditional rulers and during that campaign, the central complaint coming out from various palaces was the indiscriminate killing of their people; they complained of customs wasting their lives. Ever since I reported in this command, we have not had incidents of such killings again because of the strategy I adopted after studying the terrain and listening to the elders.
“There was this complaint of customs officers invading villages, even at night and shooting indiscriminately left right and centre. Sometimes it resulted in bullets hitting innocent people. Since January till now (September), there hasn’t been any reported case of such an incident. These were complaints from stakeholders. I took them very seriously and worked on them, and it is working.
“We also have complaints of customs officers engaging in one-man patrol. One person will enter the bush, trying to stop smugglers. In the process, they overpower him and he will shoot and kill people, creating problems for the entire command and the State. I put a stop to that. From January till today, we have not had a single case of one-man patrol. So, if I look at it overall, I have addressed 90 per cent of the issues.
“There used to be the harassment of local traders carrying foodstuffs, tomatoes, onions by customs officers at checkpoints, I put a stop to it. And I have also stopped the seizing of foodstuffs from students going to school. When I received complaints of small quantities of rice being seized, I put up a procedure whereby when there is a complaint, we draw the attention of the Duty Enforcement immediately. They would get in touch with that checkpoint and the person would be allowed to go.
“In the past eight months, I am proud of our achievements in Ogun State. We have not lost any officer and we have not killed an innocent soul in the past eight months. I stand to be corrected. Do your investigations.
“I have changed the entire operational module of Ogun 1 Area Command in the sense that much of our operations are intelligence-based. If you apply intelligence in your operations, you will avoid casualties and make more seizures. In a situation where we get intelligence that smuggled goods are being stockpiled in this room for example, we will monitor it. By the time it is plenty, we will just go and pack it with minimal resistance.”
While saying officers are being motivated to do more in ensuring the many illegal routes in Ogun State are secured, the NCS boss appealed to stakeholders to support the command in intelligence gathering.
He warned against blackmailing the command, adding that the campaign of calumny being sponsored by smugglers would not distract him and his officers.