The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has condemned what it described as new antics by smugglers to use unsuspecting members of the public as a shield to evade arrest and avoid their wares from being lawfully seized.
Recent clashes with suspected smugglers taking cover in the midst of people in parts of Lagos and Ogun resulting in death in Lagos and injuries sustained by a pregnant woman in Ogun State from bullet shells have been condemned by members of the society.
Reacting to the development, spokesman of the Nigeria Customs Service, Joseph Attah , said smugglers have devised a strategy of running into crowded places to shield themselves with members of the society and solicit support in unlawfully resisting arrest while running away with smuggled items.
Attah urged members of the public to avoid being used to advance the cause of illegal smuggling business and solicited support through relevant information about smuggling activities that will lead to their arrest and seizures of smuggled items.
”Smugglers have devised a method of tacitly recruiting members of the public to fight for them. Unknown to these people, they are being used as shield to protect illegal business of smuggling which further impoverish them and endangers their lives through consumption of things brought into the country unlawfully.
”They wickedly put the lives of the people they run into on the line. We ask for information on their activities and their stores where smuggled things are kept.People should support government’s drive for a better country by supporting the arrest of these smugglers”
He said, people who fight against the economic and social growth of the country should not be allowed to use their victims as shield. He described smugglers as heartless persons who are bent on making money at all cost even if it means exposing citizens to danger.
Attah said the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali empathise with persons who got injured in the cause of the service anti smuggling operations.
On the shooting in Ogun where some section of the media had reported that a pregnant woman was shot dead, Abdullahi Maiwada , Customs Public Relations Officer of Ogun Command disclosed that she was not shot directly as she was accidentally hit by the shell of ammunition used during the operation.
Abimbola Oyeyemi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police and spokesman for the Ogun Command confirmed that the pregnant woman did not die and that no arrest has been made as the matter was being investigated .
Oyeyemi said the Customs operatives were faced by a mob attack which necessitated the intervention of the police in the interest of inter service relationship to ensure that law and order are maintained.