Smugglers now operate freely along the border axis of Nigeria and Benin Republic in Ogun State due to the withdrawal of security agents in that area as a result of the crisis linked to #EndSARS protest.
According to some residents of Abeokuta who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday, the smugglers have been operating since Tuesday last week, conveying foreign parboiled rice across the border using vehicles and motorcycles day and night. This has resulted in the crash in price of 25kg bag of rice by about N8000.
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Muhammed Munnir, a rice trader at Lafenwa market in Abeokuta, told Daily Trust on Sunday that a 25kg bag of foreign rice now sells for N17000-N18000 as against the old price of N25000-N26000.
“It was not that the border was opened, but the security agents were no longer there to extort money from the smugglers, so they cross the border freely and come in with the rice at low cost.
“I did not buy any. In fact, as you can see, I’m trying to lock up my shop and leave the market because there is tension everywhere. Trouble seems to be brewing somewhere close to the market. We heard that some hoodlums are fighting, that is why I’m trying to leave now,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that at the railway side of Lafenwa market, thugs have replaced the security agents that used to be there to control human and vehicular movement and to ensure law and other. The thugs are said to extort money from motorists and motorcycles conveying smuggled rice along Ayetoro road.
Earlier, Hammed Bokoye Oloyede, spokesperson of Nigeria Customs Service Ogun 1 Area Command, told our reporter that hoodlums attacked some personnel of the Command on Tuesday.
He said the hoodlums, in their numbers, armed with guns, machetes, axes, charms and other dangerous weapons, attacked a Customs patrol base at Oke Ore, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State.
“The hoodlums shot at the Customs personnel, leading to the death of an Assistant Inspector of Customs, Solomon Alagye, on the spot. Another officer sustained gunshot injuries and is responding to treatment at the 192 Brigade Military Hospital Owode.
“The Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Michael Agbara, in response to the distressed call on the attack, had called for immediate reinforcement from Customs patrol teams and other security agencies including the military and the police. Unfortunately, the intervention teams could not reach the scene on time due to the road blocks mounted by the #EndSARS protesters,” he said.
He added that the hoodlums also damaged two Customs patrol vehicles and set another one ablaze. The hoodlums eventually looted valuables items, including Customs uniform, from the patrol base.
“These unprovoked attacks are coming on the heels of the directives of the Customs Area Controller to officers on the need to exercise caution and restrain themselves in all operations to avoid chaos that may ensue due to the ongoing #EndSARS protest. While officers heeded this proactive call, unfortunately the were brutally attacked by some enemies of the state.
“The Customs Area Controller while expressing dismay over this unfortunate development, commiserates with the family and colleagues of the deceased officer who died gallantly in active service. He further prayed for the recuperation of the injured officer.”