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Condemnations trail killing of Customs officer in Katsina

Penultimate Wednesday, a Customs officer identified as Awwal Haruna was lynched by suspected traders and commercial drivers at Gamjin Makaho on the Kaita-Dankama road in…

Penultimate Wednesday, a Customs officer identified as Awwal Haruna was lynched by suspected traders and commercial drivers at Gamjin Makaho on the Kaita-Dankama road in Katsina State.

The ugly incident had elicited condemnations in various quarters, with pundits saying resorting to  self-help occasioned by jungle justice is not good.

The incident happened in the morning when traders travelling to the Dankama weekly market were stopped at a Customs checkpoint, a kilometres away from Kaita town en route Dankama border market.

Earlier, the traders, who were moving in a convoy of vehicles, had a stopover at the Shinkafi roundabout in Katsina metropolis, where they were alleged to have mobilised fully before moving towards Dankama market, lamenting the hardship they were subjected to by not only Customs officials but also other security personnel manning the many checkpoints along the road.

The drivers and traders were also heard making reference to various incidents of alleged extortion by security operatives, who they said often forced them to pay substantial amounts of money before taking goods to Dankama and Kaita markets in Nigeria, a situation they described as unacceptable.

One of the drivers who preferred not to be mentioned said, “We have endured more than enough of this extortion. We are also Nigerians, so tell us where Katsina city belongs, such that we are made to pay more than N30,000 to security  personnel to transport mango to Kaita or Dankama markets, all within Nigeria. How much is the profit?

“If you convey maize or any other thing legally to these markets, you will still be forced to pay a huge amount of money, which will lead to losses at the end.”

Another trader alleged that local arrangements between the state authorities, the business community and drivers in Kaita Local Government were in favour of Customs officers

From Shinkafi roundabout, the angry drivers and traders proceeded, aiming to reach their destination by any means, and threatening to crush any security personnel that would attempt to stop them.

Unknown to Auwal Haruna and his colleagues, as well as other security personnel along the road, the traders, who said they were frustrated, were battle-ready when they arrived at the Gamjin Makaho Customs checkpoint.

According to eyewitnesses, Haruna and his colleagues stopped the convoy for routine checks but the traders defied every attempt to inspect them.

Following a heated argument between the Customs officers and the motorists, they descended on Haruna with sticks, stones and other objects, which forced him to fire a shot to scare the angry mob, but the bullet hit one of the passengers and further aggravated the situation.

“When Haruna realised that he was overpowered by the traders, he attempted to run for his life, but it was late. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t save him,” one of his colleagues said.

It was gathered that the angry traders chased him to a nearby house and set part of it ablaze, forcing him out and he was killed instantly. 

The wife of the owner of the house, whose husband was at Dankama market at the time, Nana Hauwa’u, narrated how the Customs officer struggled to escape death.

She said, “I was in my room when some children from our neighbours came in hurriedly, saying some people were chasing someone who looked like a Customs personnel from the checkpoint. I asked them to get out of the house. Few minutes later, I saw him inside my room and rushed out, but already, the mob were in the house. They poured petrol and set the room on fire, a situation that forced the officer out and they descended on him and killed him instantly.

“I was shocked and traumatised because I had never seen where a human being was killed like an animal. It was really an unfortunate moment for me and residents of this community as a whole.” 

The villagers declined to comment on the incident, probably due to the fear of the unknown, but a member of the Katsina State House of Assembly representing Kaita, Surajo Abdullahi, faulted the traders, saying they breached the earlier arrangement and agreement.

The lawmaker said, “Everything was good between us and the Customs officers; in fact, the comptroller and his personnel here in Katsina were very cooperative with us and everything was going smoothly. I think that somewhere, somehow, someone or a group must have played a role in inciting the traders and the drivers to achieve a goal. On this note, I want to suggest a thorough investigation aimed at bringing whoever is found culpable to justice.

“I am against anything that could lead to anarchy. I think I have done the very best I could to ensure the ease of doing business. I thank the Service for cooperating with the government by listening to our demands.”

Commenting on the incident, the Katsina State command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) reaffirmed commitment towards safeguarding the country’s borders and ensuring the ease of doing business. The command assured that efforts would be intensified until enemies of the state are apprehended and brought to book.

The public relations officer of the NCS in Katsina, Tahir Balarabe, said the unfortunate incident would not deter them from carrying out their legitimate responsibilities. He assured the people of Katsina State of unwavering commitment to ensuring a conducive environment where businesses thrive.

“We are really saddened by this unfortunate incident; that was why the public relations officer from the headquarters sent a release on behalf of the comptroller- general, Adewale Adeniyi, consoling the immediate family of the officer, the command and the people of the state. It is really sad,” he said.

Reacting to the incident, residents of the area called on the NCS to strengthen its stakeholders forum, with a view to ensuring harmonious relationship between its personnel and the public.

 

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