The Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, has strongly condemned the constant harassment, intimidation and killing of innocent citizens living in border towns by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The governor, who spoke against the backdrop of the killing of 10 residents of Jibia, a border town between Katsina and Niger Republic by Customs officials chasing alleged rice smugglers in their vehicle said the Service is making life miserable for people they are supposed to serve because of revenue collection.
Governor Masari, who expressed his dissatisfaction when a committee instituted by the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, paid him a condolence visit at the state Government House over the incident on Monday reiterated the resolve of his administration to sue the Service if it fails to compensate the families of the victims killed by its patrol team.
Governor Masari, also demanded for the arrest and prosecution of the officers involved in the incident.
According to the Governor, the relationship between customs and the people of the state is strained due to the reckless operations of some of their officers in the state. This he said has resulted in the burning of their operational vehicles in the past and from all indications the customs patrol team does not seem to have learnt a lesson as the situation seems to be worsening.
The governor urged the NCS to collaborate with other security outfits to identify and raid shops where contrabands are being stored rather than the reckless chase and shootings of suspected smugglers.
“We are not condoning smuggling in any form but then you have criminalised people living within the border communities of Nigeria. You don’t even care. Life means nothing to you because in the end you are going to declare in the federation account the amount collected by the Customs.
“Today, if you are taking pure water from Katsina to Jibia, you will pass not less than 28 checkpoints. Those 28 checkpoints, they are not checkpoints but toll-gates. You are making life miserable for people you are supposed to serve.
“You are pursuing somebody on a motorcycle with five bags of rice as if you are pursuing a bandit. Look, for me, you have to compensate these people. Secondly, you must prosecute the driver and the officer who directed him.
“We will not accept anything short of this. We are ready to test the legal system that gave you the right to kill right inside the town. There are only two things that will stop us from testing; you compensate those lives that you killed and prosecute the driver and the officer who is directing to pursue recklessly,” Governor Masari said.
Assistant Comptroller General of Customs in charge of Zone B, Muhammed Uba, who led the Customs team said they are in Katsina at the instance of the Comptroller General, to commiserate with the government, the victims’ families in Jibiya and people of the state.
Uba said part of their mission in the state is to reach out and interact with the families of the deceased to enable the service come in and do the needful.
Similarly, the delegated committee extended their condolence visit to the Palace of the Emir of Katsina, HRH. Abdulmumin Usman, on behalf of the Customs Comptroller General.
On his part, the member representing Jibiya/Kaita Federal Constituency, Sada Soli, while speaking during the condolence visit, disclosed that a total of 25 persons have been killed in the area by the act of recklessness exhibited by the custom patrol team in the past three years.