Students in Ogun State have raised an alarm over an alleged influx of illegal firearms into the country through the state’s borders.
The students, under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Association of University Students (NAUS), and National Association of Ogun State Students (NAOSS), said at a press conference that the state command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was becoming toothless in fighting smuggling.
The press conference was jointly addressed by the Chairman of NANS in the state, Damilola Simeon; National President of NAOSS, Gbemileke Ogunrombi; and the National Vice President of NAUS, Adebowale Abdul-Adeniran.
The students accused the Comptroller of Nigeria Customs Service, Ogun Area Command 1, Peter Kolo, of “gross ineptitude, absolute incompetence and visible indifference in securing the borders of Ogun State.”
The students said the upsurge in smuggling and the influx of illegal firearms into Nigeria had worsened insecurity in the country. They said the development might threaten the smooth running of academic activities in the state if not speedily curbed.
According to the students, “there has been a severe and steady decline in the service delivery of Nigerian Customs Service, thereby breaking the trust and mutual relationship between the agency and Ogun State citizens.
“Beyond smuggling of contraband products, they now take advantage of the Nigerian Customs Service’s nonchalant attitude to sneak in arms and ammunitions.
“The relaxed attitude of the Nigerian Customs Service is slowly turning Ogun State into a hotbed for gun-running, thereby jeopardizing the security of the armless citizens and our students.
“More than ever, the circulation of unregistered and unlicensed guns on the street has massively increased. If this trend continues, we may start experiencing gunfights with heavy casualties across our campuses.”
The students, however, urged the Customs to work in synergy with other sister security agencies to nip the problem in the bud, saying “this steady decline has exposed students and the general public to grave danger by the unabated actions of smugglers in the state.”
When asked how the students were able to ascertain that the arms came in through the borders and not locally made, Mr Ogunrounbi said, “the customs themselves arrested a smuggler with ammunition sometime ago, probably because he didn’t pay to book his way.
“If he had paid to book his way, that is how the gun would have found its way to Ogun State and will be used in terrorising the general public. The police sometimes parade some gun runners who smuggle ammunitions into Ogun State.
“The common slangs in Ogun State now whenever their is a little misunderstanding among our youths is ‘I will go to Idiroko and come back or I will send money to them over there to bring it for me,’ which means I will go to Benin Republic to get gun or send money to them to help me smuggle it in before I come to fight you. This madness need to be stopped.”
‘We are doing our best’
Contacted, the spokesperson of the command, Hammed Oloyede, said the achievements of the NCS in Ogun under the watch of Mr Kolo, negated every allegation made by the students’ bodies.
Mr Oloyede said he wondered where the students got the claim of the influx of firearms, asking what they have done as patriotic citizens to assist the NCS in intelligence gathering.
“I believe you have been seeing some of our press releases and press conferences on our performance on anti-smuggling. That alone has negated their claims.
“We are doing our best, we are making seizure of contraband items. So, what are they saying? Have they forgotten that we have several unapproved routes in Ogun State? Despite that, we do not rest on our oars. We are making concerted efforts to ensure that smuggling is reduced drastically.
“I don’t know where they got their fact or statistics from. As patriotic citizens, when you observe some certain things, you state the efforts you are making to reduce smuggling to the barest minimum.
“If someone is doing everything to combat smuggling and someone somewhere is making allegations that could be regarded as baseless, it’s uncalled for, it’s unfounded. Are they blind to the good works we have been doing? It’s disheartening, it’s uncalled for. They should not forget the nature of our borders, yet we are still policing it. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
“They should just cooperate with us. If they have information, they should release it; if they have intelligence, they should tell us,” the NCS spokesperson said.