NO fewer than seven persons were feared dead, while a yet to-be ascerstaunec number of persons sustained varying degrees of injuries on weekend, when suspected smugglers engaged the operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in a gun battle in Ogun State.
The incident, occurred at Kobape village, along Abeokuta – Sagamu expressway in Obafemi – Owode local government area when the operatives from the Federal Operation Unit (F.O.U) were on routine enforcement operation in the area.
The clash, which started at about 5p.m on were said to have left commuters and motorists stranded for over two-hours as vehicular activities were distrupted along the expressway.
It was gathered that the NCS personnel had at about 3p.m intercepted some vehicles being used by the smugglers to convey large quantities of smuggled bags of foreign rice to an unknown destination, during which one of the drivers was equally arrested and whisked away.
An eye witness said trouble started when the Customs’ F.O.U operatives refused to release the arrested driver, and as well rejected the settlement advances made by leaders of the smugglers.
The refusal of the NCS operatives however, allegedly infuriated the smugglers, who later turned the bargaining to violence, shooting one of the Customs personnel to death.
It was further gathered that both groups recorded a number of casualties in the clash.
An unconfirmed report said about three operatives were shot and four suspected smugglers were dead dead.
It took the intervention of a combined security operatives, which included the Nigerian Army and the Police to dislodge the smugglers in an intervention led by the Commissioner of Police in Ogun Command, Lanre Bankole.
In a statement, the Public Relations Officer, FOU Zone A, Theophilus Duniya said two of the attackers lost their lives in the fracas, while two Customs operatives were wounded.
He said, “Customs patrol team from Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Lagos was attacked without provocation on Saturday afternoon during an operation along Shagamu Inter-change in Ogun State”.
“The patrol team had intercepted twelve vehicles of different kinds, laden with bags of foreign parboiled rice and were on their way to the government warehouse before smugglers mobilized themselves with the support of their sympathizers and attacked the team with dangerous weapons”.
“During the exchange of gun fire, two of the attackers lost their lives and one suspect was arrested. Out of 12 vehicles in the convoy of the smugglers , our operatives were able to leave with 4 of them laden with smuggled foreign parboiled rice”.
“The arrested suspect and the seizure have been brought to the Unit Headquarters, Ikeja”