THERE was pandemonium in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, as scores of protesters besieged the headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), located on Quarry area of the town, over the alleged killing of a transporter, Saubana Onila, at Sowo village, on Wednesday.
Onila was reported to be the former chairman of Grammar School unit at Isale-Igbein area of the town, plying Owode-Egba axis in the state.
The protesters were prevented by the team of the Nigeria Police, led by the state commissioner of Police, Ahmed IIiyasu, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and men of the State Vigilance Group from taking the protest to the Customs Office, to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Metro learnt that the incident which claimed the life of the father of four occurred as Customs officers on routine patrol along Kobape-Siun-Sagamu expressway pursued the suspected smugglers who tried to beat the team.
An eyewitness, who identified himself, as Sola Josiah, told Metro that five commercial vehicles loaded with 25 bags of rice each, left the popular Kuto Park in Abeokuta enroute Sagamu, when the incident happened.
Josiah claimed that the patrol team on sighting their convoy allegedly shot at one of the vehicles which made the driver to lose control forcing the vehicle to somersault and finally landed into a ditch.
However, the driver claimed that one of the operatives of the patrol team shot at a tyre of the Mazda 626 drove by Onila and subsequently killed the deceased in cold blood.
Josiah alleged that officials of the Customs had collected a sum of N5, 000 on each of the vehicle from their leaders at the Park before they embarked on the less than one hour trip.
He also said that four other people were seriously injured in the incident and that those injured had been taken to an undisclosed hospitals for treatment by their relatives.
The remains of the deceased were conveyed in a commercial taxi cab to the Customs office by the protesters, who were dispersed by security agencies on ground.
Speaking on the development, the NCS Public Relations Officer, Ogun Area Command, Mr. Usman Abubakar, said the patrol team waylaid the smugglers while acting on credible information.
Abubakar explained to newsmen that the smugglers on sighting the Customs officers drove on top speed to avoid arrest.
The PRO said, “The information at my disposal is that one of our patrol teams went on routine patrol this morning along Kobape-Sagamu Interchange. Based on credible information to them that some smugglers were coming through that route, they waylaid the smugglers.
“On sighting Customs vehicle, the occupants of those vehicles now started on top speed. In the course of the operation, one of the vehicles fell into a ditch. The occupants of that vehicle left and ran away.
“Our men now brought the vehicle down to Abeokuta station. So, that is the information I have. There was no shootout with anybody. Our men have no cause to shoot anybody. They are well trained and they operate according to international best practices.
“The information that I have by our men, when they pursue those smugglers, there was a rat race between the drivers of those vehicles. Immediately the first one fell into a ditch, our picked the vehicle and left others. So there was no shootout between our men and anybody.
“The police have been invited; we are on top of the situation. The matter is under investigation by the Customs and the police. So after a thorough investigation, we will now give you full details of what happened.”