Shot, injured and currently undergoing treatment at the Katsina Orthopaedic Hospital, 35-year-old Auwalu Sani, is the latest victim of an unfortunate but oft-recurring incidences of abuse of weapons by some trigger-happy Customs personnel. Police confirmed that a Customs officer shot Sani at Fadi Gurje village in Mani local government area of Katsina state.
Media reports also claimed that the Customs’ operatives who stormed the sleepy community, supposedly on a patrol mission, fired several gunshots into the air following which Sani was hit by one of the bullets.
We note rather sadly, that the latest shooting follows a trend that is gradually becoming a routine occurrence. For instance, in August this year, operatives of the Customs personnel killed no fewer than 10 persons and injured several others in Jibia community of Katsina State after their vehicle rammed into a gathering while pursuing a suspected rice smuggler.
On September 7, officers of the service shot at the convoy of the Katsina State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ya’u Umar Gojo-Gojo. Gojo-Gojo, a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly was leaving his hometown in Mai’adua local government area when the incident happened. Maiadua is a border local government area.
Communities in Jibia and Maiadua council areas of the state, among others, because of their geo-location as border areas between Nigeria and Niger Republic, have continued to endure the most needless killings by supposed customs personnel under the guise of arresting smugglers.
Recently, there appears to be a rising incidence of such unwarranted shooting and, in some cases, killings by Customs operatives, some of which have led to protest by residents of the affected communities.
We recall that apparently irked by the tragic incident that led to the death of 10 persons in Jibia, the Governor, Aminu Masari, threatened to sue the Customs service even as he demanded compensation for the families of the victims. It is not clear whether he made good his threats and there is nothing to suggest that those behind the killings have been made to face the wrath of the law.
These unfortunate incidences involving personnel of the government agency are becoming not just worrisome, in our considered opinion, but also a recurring phenomenon especially in the border areas of Katsina State where the activities of smugglers are intense. While we appreciate the efforts of the Customs personnel to check those illegal activities that tend to distort the nation’s economy, it is also necessary for the officers to carry out their duties in a manner that will not lead to avoidable collateral damage. We consider it unwholesome for anyone to suggest that lives were lost because the Customs are chasing rice smugglers.
For residents of these sleepy Katsina border Communities, life cannot be harder as either they have to contend with shots from criminals making a fortune from banditry and kidnapping or they face perceived recklessness on the part of security operatives.
The disturbing twist to this development is that often as this happens, authorities will respond with the usual and well-worn cliché: ‘we will get to the root of it and those found culpable will be prosecuted’.
Often, that is all there is until another killing occurs. Of course, the latest incident is one recklessness too many. Without any fear of contradiction, the extent to which such wanton killings and indiscriminate shootings are treated is responsible for the recurrence.
Indeed, these shootings and the resultant loss of lives or injuries therefrom, have further underscored the need to conduct psychiatric tests to ascertain the mental state of mind of most security operatives before giving them weapons.
As for the latest Katsina shooting, the Customs authority must ensure the culprit is arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law. No doubt, this will serve as a deterrent to trigger-happy security operatives wherever they may be. Incidences of such carelessness represent a sad commentary on the nation’s security operatives. To say it portrays the Customs service in a bad light is an understatement.
There is no reason why the service should continue to keep an officer who shot at innocent, defenceless civilians without provocation. In this circumstance, the least the Service can do to absolve itself of complicity is to dismiss the affected operative and pay restitution.
As a newspaper, we believe that this incidence of sheer abuse of arms by not just Customs personnel but other security operatives persists because the system has failed to make an example out of the culprits. We suggest that beyond summary dismissal, those found guilty should pay restitution from their pockets even if it means deploying their life savings and pension contributions for that purpose.