Need to call Customs men at MMIA to order

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The attack last week by an officer with the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC), attached to the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) identified as H. Daboh, on a staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Taiwo Adeyanju at the Palace Gate of the Cargo Terminal raises some pertinent questions. According to reports, the victim was said to have been brutally mauled by the Customs officer who was not in uniform, for daring to challenge his wrong driving Mr. Adeyanju who was in the company of some of his colleagues was actually on his way out of the Palace Gate at around 9:40am  was blocked by  the assaulter who wanted to have right of way before one argument led to an attack with teargas severally in the eyes of the victim, for daring to challenge his wrong driving.

According to reports, it took the intervention of some workers at the complex and the,personnel of the Nigeria Police attached to the airport before Adeyanju could be successfully rescued from Daboh who had rained several punches on the victim’s face and other parts of his body, beating him into a pulp. It was also reported that when Daboh realised the magnitude of his offence, he attempted torun away and drove directly to the office of the Customs at the airport, but he was given a hotchase by some workers at the airport.Adeyanju, was gathered, was immediately rushed to the FAAN’s clinic at the airport where he was referred to the Air Force Hospital for better treatment as a result of the massive beating he received and teargas he received from Daboh.

In a reaction to the situation the following day, spokesperson of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the MMIA, Thelma Williams said that the NSC has commenced investigation into the matter and said that the preliminary findings (This in less than a day) indicated that the Customs officer was not trying to gain access through the palace gate. According to the NSC spokesperson who gave an account the incident was actually a misunderstanding of right of use of way on the Airport Boulevard. It is time for the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC), Colonel Hameed Ali (Rtd)   and other commanding officers at the airports of all uniformed apparatus and security agencies to call their subordinates to order and try as much as possible to open up objective investigations into these matter not send press releases that will make any discerning person ask further questions.

One major question with the NSC’s statement of the incident was that it was a mere ‘misunderstanding’ , one wonders what would have happened if the victim had raised his hands  to defend himself whether he would still be alive if a mere misunderstanding could take him to the hospital all battered and bruised. The NSC  statement also indicated that it had just commenced investigation however, the same press release has already concluded the investigation by telling us it was a misunderstanding while their preliminary findings revealed that the  Officer (Daboh)  was not trying to gain access into the Palace Gate as alleged  by the FAAN staff. The question now should be since this is a civil offence, should the customs be investigating this matter or is it under the jurisdiction of the Nigeria Police? And who were the investigating team or chief investigator? Who were questioned by these investigators to enable customs conclude that their officer was not violating any rule?

The Customs PR was quoted as she gave an account of the incident, now one would wonder, whose account of the incident did she give as all investigation as at the time of the release of that press statement showed that no one from NSC had gone to the Air Force base clinic to meet or question the FAAN official and the PRO was not present during the hullaballoo. One can only assume under these easily dismissed explanations that no investigation has been carried out because in truth the victim could not have inflicted such beating on himself to land himself in a hospital and then accuse the NSC. Inasmuch as the NSC is trying to save face, they should also do so by actually investigating this growing blight that has found its way to their institution instead of looking for cheap media rebuttals.

The officer should be handed to the police for investigation and not left to the customs to cover up whatever atrocities they have orchestrated and if the NSC wants to carry out the investigation (which is constitutionally wrong anyway)  it must be seen as open as a civilian is involved not just their officers. The spate of assaults by uniformed and ununiformed personnel of security agencies at the airport has become a worrisome trend that if not checked would totally destroy the relationship and synergy that should be at the airport to actually identify real threats. Last year, five Aviation Security, AVSEC, were beaten to a pulp by the officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, for barring them from accessing the restricted areas of the airport without the required On-Duty- Cards, ODCs.

And one cannot forget the sad incident where Air Force personnel with his brother beat a trolley driver at the General Aviation Terminal to Death and no one has heard what has happened to the officer till date and these are just the ones that are prominent in the news. Daboh ought to have been handed over to the Nigeria Police and an objective investigation should have taken place not a window dressing press release written out of desperation to cover shame and save face. The Customs command, the Immigration Command, the State Security Services, Nigeria Air force and the leadership of every other security apparatus  at the airports and other nation gateways should sensitize their officers and lay down stringent punishment for violators of laid down rules and procedures.

This way, uniformed men would understand and conform to acceptable public behaviour instead of resulting to barbarism and brutality especially when they are not at war or apprehending criminals.

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