No fewer than seven persons were feared dead, while unspecified numbers of people, including commuters sustained varying degrees of injuries when a suspected smuggling syndicate engaged operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in a gun battle on Saturday in Ogun state.
The incident, which occurred at the Kobape village, along the ever busy Abeokuta – Sagamu expressway in the Obafemi – Owode Local Government area of the state was allegedly ignited by the suspected smuggling syndicate, who unleashed terror on Customs operatives from the Federal Operation Unit (F.O.U) performing the routine enforcement operation in the area.
The bloody clash, which started around 5p.m Saturday evening, left commuters and motorists stranded for more than 3-hours when vehicular movements were halted along the expressway due to the motorists who deserted the road for fear of being hit by stray bullets, or being mistaken for smugglers by both rampaging shooters.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the NCS personnel had around 3p.m Saturday afternoon, 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, who craved anonymity told LEADERSHIP Sunday that troubles started when the Customs’ F.O.U operatives would neither release the arrested driver, nor succumb to the settlement advances made by leaders of the smuggling syndicate.
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.
LEADERSHIP Sunday further gathered that both sides suffered numbers of casualties in the melee that later ensued as three operatives were killed, while four members of the smuggling syndicate also paid with their lives.
Source close to the scene of the situation at Kobape Village Junction later told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the situation layer snowballed into a mega war, whereby the smugglers camped against the NCS operatives, with each side scheming to overpower the other in a shooting range that master closed to 3-hours.
It took the intervention of the combined security operatives, which included personnel of the Nigerian Army and the police to dislodge the smugglers in an intervention led by the Commissioner of Police in Ogun Command, Lanre Bankole.
When Contacted, the NCS’ Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the command, Theophilus Peter Duniya pleaded for time to investigate the matter and promised to get back to our correspondent and could not fulfil the promise as of the time of filing this report.