The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has denied that its operatives killed five residents of Iseyin town in Oyo State as alleged by some members of the community.
The NCS Assistant Legal Adviser, Mr Umar Lawal made this known while addressing members of the House of Representatives Committee on Customs in Abuja on Tuesday.
Recall that the House had mandated the committee to investigate the alleged killing of five members of the community by NCS officials in a sad event that occurred on May 13.
Explaining what led to the speculation, Lawal stated that some customs officers were on patrol and intercepted two Pathfinder SUVs laden with smuggled foreign rice.
He told the committee that after the interception, the smugglers ran into the community, abandoning the SUVs and the smuggled goods.
According to him, the officers took charge of the seizure and on their way to the base, ran into a mob that blocked the road and attempted to dispossess them of the seizure.
"Men of the NCS are not supposed to be interrupted when performing their duty by virtue of the law; in the event that ensued while they were conveying the seizure, the mob tried to attack the officers on the road.
"Looking at what was going on, the officers swiftly shot into the air to disperse the mob and successfully dispersed the mob and conveyed the seizure to their base at Iseyin.
"Having arrived at the based, a marmot crowd arrived at the base wherein two officers were caught by the mob and injured and they were taken to a hospital in Ibadan and were referred to Lagos for treatment,'' he said.
Lawal said that the officers were overpowered by the mob and an attempt was made to abduct an officer of the service.
"So the leader of the base made a call and contacted the Nigerian Army for help. Before the arrival of the army, the mob disposes one of the injured officers of his riffle.
"When they (soldiers) arrived, they work with the officers on ground, recovered the rifle and restored calm in the area.
"The mob was armed with cutlasses, sticks and were pelting the officers with stones, and inflicted machete cuts on the officers; nobody was killed by men of the NCS, there was no incident of killing,'' he said.
The assistant legal adviser described the allegation of officers on legitimate duty shooting sporadically after crossing 50 villages before coming to Iseyin, as one which called for concern, "as the officers were not drunk''.
Earlier, Mr Tijani Razak, a representative of families of the victims, said that the incident occurred on May 13, at about 4.30 p.m during the Eid-el Fitre celebration.
Razak said that majority of people killed were going about their legal activities as some were motorcycle riders, painters while others were on the road when they got hit by stray bullets and died.
He said that Iseyin community was about 200 kilometers from the nearest border and the NCS was supposed to have apprehended the smugglers before coming to the community.
"But they came into the town where the people do not know what is going on between the NCS and the smugglers, they killed five persons instantly and some survived gunshot injuries.
"This is not the first time this is happening in the town, we can count two to three incidents and that is why the community head said it is enough.
"Those killed are survived by wives, children and dependents. They are not smugglers. We are praying this committee to look into the matter deeply to see how customs can perform their functions so that it won't affect the people and all the surrounding towns.
"We do not know how the officers were performing their duty that the smuggled goods crossed almost 50 towns before coming to Iseyin, about 200 kilometers from the border.
"We want compensation for the deceased because they have dependents, we pray this committee to help us ensure those affected are compensated,'' he said.
Also, Chairman of the committee, Rep. Leke Abejide (ADC -Kogi), not satisfied with the NCS explanation, ruled that the Custom's Area Controller and the Deputy Controller Enforcement should appear.
Also to appear before the committee is the Zonal Controller and the Legal Officer in Oyo state to give their account of what transpired in Iseyin.
The ruling is sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Jerry Alagbaosu (APC-Imo) during the hearing.
Alagbaosu said that the heads of the officer could not be shaved in their absence and moved that they should appear in person to narrate what occurred and be cross examined.