By Aisha Cole
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, said that two alleged notorious smugglers, Mr Oyedeji Rashidi and Mr Shuaib Sheyi, were arraigned on a nine-count charge of smuggling prohibited items.
The Public Relations Officer of the unit, Mr Jerome Attah, said on Thursday in Lagos that the duo appeared before Chief Magistrate Y. A. Aje-Afunwa of the Magistrates’ Court, Ikeja, Lagos State on Tuesday Oct, 18, 2016.
Attah said that the suspects had been remanded in Ikoyi Prison, awaiting trial as the case was adjourned to Feb.15, 2017.
He said that Mr Badejogbin David, who led the legal team of the NCS, prayed that the court should expedite the legal proceedings to serve as a deterrent to others.
“You will recall that on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, our field operatives while on a tip-off trailed some smugglers to Alakuko/Kola Junction area of Agege, Lagos and intercepted two vehicles laden with smuggled rice.
“However, while taking the seized goods to the office, one of the suspects Oyedeyi Rashidi, incited a mob attack against our operatives.
“The mob were armed with various dangerous weapons such as guns, cutlasses, broken bottles, sticks, stones, among others, which resulted to a shootout between our men and the smugglers.
“While some of these hoodlums confronted our operatives, others rescued one of the arrested vehicles loaded with smuggled rice.
“Only the intervention of our reinforcement saved one of the vehicles and ensured the arrest of a suspect.
“The professional conduct of our operatives prevented a complete breakdown of law and order or serious fatalities in a densely populated area,’’ The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Attah as saying.
According to him, for the avoidance of doubt, the fact that a smuggler has evaded scrutiny either by following unapproved route or compromising any operatives does not guarantee that the smuggled item will not be seized anywhere it is found by patrol officers whose duty is to ensure compliance
He said, “However, when the smugglers’ gang leader got to know that our unit was charging the suspect (Oyedeji Rashidi) to court being Oct 18, 2016, they mobilised with the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State Branch, to stage an unruly protest to the Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja.’’
He said the CDHR demanded the unconditional release of the suspect in Customs’custody.
“It is amazing that such credible human right body would allow themselves to be used by the smugglers who mean no good for the country,’’ the public relations officer said.
The Controller, Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Comptroller Umar Dahiru commended the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Fatai Owoseni, for his prompt deployment of his men to stop what would have caused serious tensions and casualties.
He said the spirit of inter-agency relationship among security agencies could not be over-emphasised.
Dahiru said the economic saboteurs were desperate to smuggle into the country over 600 tonnes of rice rotting away in warehouses across the nation’s borders.
The controller said that Customs operatives were determined to frustrate the plans of the smugglers and bring them to book accordingly.
He advised the CDHR to always verify its claims before embarking on any struggle to enhance their credibility and integrity.
Dahiru said that taking sides with suspected smugglers was not within the human rights’ group’s mandate.