A Nigeria Customs officer, Destiny Onebamho, on Sunday shot and killed a civilian porter, Onoja Godwin, at the Sagamu end of Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway, while allegedly trying to extort N5,000 from a France returnee.
The returnee was traveling to his home State, Edo, in company with other passengers of a Benin-bound bus when they were stopped at a Customs checkpoint.
The victim was shot during an argument between the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit in Ikeja, Lagos.
Mr. Joseph Oliver, who lives in France, said he and the other passengers in the bus arrived at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, on Saturday evening. Joseph, said whenever he and his co-travellers are in Nigeria, they usually contract the transport company to convey them to Benin from Lagos airport.
Joseph stated that when they got to Sagamu interchange, some Customs officers asked the driver to stop.
“The driver stopped and asked them what the matter was. The driver said that this bus belonged to Iyare Motors, that it was not necessary to stop them. One of the officers ask the driver to park, immediately the driver obeyed him.
“One of the officers came and asked who owned the luggage. The driver told him that the luggage belonged to the passengers. The customs officer asked us where we were coming from and we told him that we were coming from overseas and that we were here on a visit.
“He said he had interest in the luggage and needed to check them one by one. We told him that they had been checked at the airport. He replied that he must carry out his job and ordered us to alight from the bus. One of them then called the driver and asked him to give them N5,000 for them to allow us to go. We heard the driver saying that he did not have the money and that we did not have anything illegal. The driver then told us that the Customs officers demanded N5,000 from us. Godwin said to the officers that he was going to video it with is iPhone 6, after they have eventually agreed that their luggage should be searched, but one of the customs officer demanded that the phone be given to him, while one of them, said no because he didn’t want them to put contraband in their bags. But the the officer ask the passenger to give him the phone, but the passenger refused, saying that the price of the phone could pay his salary.
“The officer just took some steps back, cocked his gun and fired. Immediately he fired, a man fell down. Before we knew it, one of the two Customs officers in green sweater ran into the bush, leaving the others. We were 10 passengers in the bus and when we took a headcount, we were complete. There was blood all over the victim’s face, so we could not recognise him. “The officer tried to run away, but we held him by the uniform insisting that he had to follow us to the nearest police station.”
The manager of Iyare Motors, Benin City, Mr Aghimien Osahon, thanked God that none of the passengers lost their lives in the process.
He explained that the Customs officers were angered by the driver’s refusal to give them N5,000, adding that he did not know why they behaved the way they did.
“It was one of their men that they mistakenly shot dead and not any of our passengers. The officer, who fired the gun, wanted to shoot one of the passengers; as he cocked the gun, he opened fire on one of his men in mufti. We give God the glory,” Osahon said.
The Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr Joseph Attah, described the incident as quite unfortunate, adding that the victim was not one of the passengers, but a friend to the Customs men.
He said in a statement that it was in the process of filming the Customs personnel at work by the passengers and also struggling to disarm an officer that a rifle carried by one of the operatives accidentally discharged and the bullet hit the man.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to a disturbing video going viral with conflicting narratives.
“While it is painful and totally unnecessary to lose a life in anti-smuggling operations, today at the Sagamu interchange along Ijebu Ode, an attempt to obstruct the lawful performance of duty by passengers of a commercial bus suspected to be carrying bales of used clothing led to the death of a young man, Godwin, and serious injuries to a Customs officer, Destiny Onebamho.
“Contrary to some narratives, the young man was not a passenger of the bus but a good citizen, who always come to fetch water for the Customs patrol men anytime they return to the base.
“Preliminary findings indicate that it was during the skirmishes and struggle to disarm the officer that the riffle discharged and the bullet hit the friend of the Customs, who lost his life.”
He said the service had already contacted the bereaved family, adding that the Customs personnel had been recalled to the office for further investigation.
The statement added, “It should be noted that while attention shifted to the dead and the wounded, the passengers, who filmed with inciting commentaries boarded their vehicle and left, leaving the wrong impression that it was one of them that was killed.
“While the wounded officer is in intensive care at the hospital, the patrol team has been recalled to the office for further investigation.”
When the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, was contacted, he said operatives of the command were able to rescue the Customs officer from being lynched by the angry mob, adding that the case would be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Eleweran, Abeokuta.