27th June, 2012
Nigerian smugglers operating in the Owode- Idiroko border on Monday barricaded the ever busy Gwaji bridge cheeckpoint threatening to burn down the Customs cheeckpoint and deal with any officer who stands as an obstacle on their way. The face-off lasted till Tuesday before the smugglers were dislodged.
The smugglers who stormed Gwaji in cars and buses loaded with contraband items numbering over 60 vehicles tried to force their way through the customs cheeckpoint but met a stiff resistance. As peaceful appeals made by men and officers of the customs service fell on deaf ears, instead, they threatened the officers with guns and charms which they brandished openly. As tension built up and it became clear that they would overpower the officers on duty, an officer identified as the O/C in charge of Gwaji called for re-inforcement.
Before the arrival of the joint task force comprising soldiers from 242 Recce Battalion, Officers from Badagry Division of Nigerian Police, Area K Command and the Customs crack squad who disloged them, the officers tried all they could to reach out to the leaders of the surrounding communities to avert bloodshed, but calls to their phones did not go through. An eye witness who spoke to our correspondent blamed the persistent harassment and attacks on customs formation on the community leaders who, according to him, had failed to educate their people about the dangers of smuggling.
“The officers did not come here on their own but assigned here by the government to checkmate economic sabouteurs,” he lamented. “As you can see, the type of guns they have is more sophisticated than that of the police. In fact, it is only the army that can withstand them. This is not even the 20th time this place has come under siege by these people. If not the wisdom of the O/c of customs, by now, this whole place would have been littered with corpses,” he said.
Another eye witness who identified himself as Gavah said, “sometimes, you see them carrying goods without stopping for routine check and any attempt to stop them results in fracas or molestation. They will tell you that this land belongs to them and thatfayawo(local name for smuggling) is their own oil.” On why they came through this route instead of their usual Atan/Agbara route, Gavah said he was informed that men of the customs service have blocked there thence they had to see if they can force their way through here. An officer who does not want his name mentioned said, “we will continue to resist them no matter who is supporting them. They cannot withstand the federal might. They had attacked us here with their deity called Sankpeto but God has always been our defence.” Efforts to speak with the Public Relations Officer of Idiroko Customs command was rebuffed.
Meanwhile, , security agencies are on top of the situation as the Commanding Officer of the 242 Battlion in the company of the the Area Commander, Area K and the Divisional Police Officer, Badagry, were seen holding meetings with the officers of the Nigerian Customs.