As Army, Customs mourns dead personnel
The notorious illegal security checkpoints mounted by different security organization along tries the Lagos/Seme expressway, scaled down drastically since last Wednesday, following the death of an army personnel and a customs officer at the Gbaji Checkpoint end of the Seme/Badagry Bridge road.
On the spot check by Vanguard Maritime Report showed that whereas the army has completely vacated every checkpoint they are known to maintain hitherto between Agbara, Badagry and Seme, as at weekend, there was also a reduction in the number of police checkpoints on the highway, especially between Badagry and Seme.
It will be recalled that a yet to be identified soldier shot and killed a Customs officer attached to the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, last Wednesday, over an unclear issue.
The soldier reportedly turned his gun on himself after shooting the customs officer, also killing himself. Although there has been a consensus of account of what transpired, sources at the location have attributed varying motives.
Commenting on the incident, Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Seme Chapter, Mr. Lasisi Bisiriyu said the late soldier may have acted under the influence of alcohol.
On my way to the office, I noticed that the soldier checkpoint was not active. I heard a soldier killed a customs man and himself. They said the soldier was just misbehaving, shouting and shooting. I heard his colleagues and Customs officers there made effort to send for the commander so that they can disarm the soldier because he was just shooting sporadically and the officers there started running.
This particular Customs officer that got killed was moving close to the soldier and he felt he was coming to arrest him. That was how he opened fire, killed him and also killed himself.
Findings by our reporter indicate that although the soldier in question is attached to the Joint Border Drill put together since last year by the Comptroller General of the Customs and the National Security Adviser, he was reportedly not attached to the checkpoint where the incident happened.
Those who followed the incident said he was coming back from town and stopped over. His own checkpoint is just after a police checkpoint, which is within a shouting distance.
The soldier was believed to have gone to town while on duty, with his riffle. It is believed that he stopped over while returning from town. Those who listened to the eye witnesses said the soldier looked a little tipsy or something of that nature, and that he displayed the attitude of somebody who was over joy about something.
According to one of our source, Nobody can really say what went wrong. But he has been complaining that he doesnt like the checkpoint he has been posted to, but while displaying this feeling of happiness that day, he started shooting into the air.
His military colleagues working directly with him were attracted, when they saw his mood, they stayed apart and called their boss. But along the line, the late customs officer started moving close to him, like asking him to cool down. Maybe the soldier thought he wanted to attack or disarm him, and he gunned him down. After that he shot himself too, it happened so fast.
Asked if rice or money was involved, he said no. There is nothing like rice involved in the matter. That is the soldiers checkpoint, just before you ascend the Gbaji bridge, pointing, see that police checkpoint there, it is always there and is in-between the customs checkpoint here and the soldiers checkpoint there. It is just unfortunate.
Another source confirmed that since the incident, the soldiers have all left their checkpoints, while the police checkpoints have also reduced, adding:
Apart from few illegal checkpoints, it is the customs that encourage the soldiers to come and work with them, to give them protection against smugglers and community youths. They create some of these problems themselves, after collecting booking; they turn around sometimes to seize the goods, that is why you see the smugglers and crossers fighting them.
Another of our source painted a worrisome scenario that could serve as lead in the investigation of the incident; even although there may not be compelling evidence to reconcile the development with elements of facts possibly contained in alleged prior state of dissatisfaction by soldiers engaged in customs operations.
He said, According to one of my soldier friend, he said they are not sometimes happy working with the customs, because customs pack the money, they leave them to lead and do the fight for them. You never can tell, maybe accumulated grievances over unfair sharing, it can trigger anything.
If a soldier stops a vehicle, a customs officer will ask him to allow the vehicle to go, after the normal parole. Many of them are not happy collecting the N3000 they get at the end of the days work, knowing how much is made.
The Seme Customs Command Public Relations Officer, Hussein Abdulahi reacting said We dont have much detail to report, the incident is under investigation. Everybody is shocked, it was a mournful development, but things have returned to normal. That is all we can say for now.