35 Bags of Rice Equals Five Human Lives To Nigerian Customs – Alhazan Abiodun Rilwan
“One human life is worth more than all the treasures of the earth.”
As the dust raised by the killing of five individuals by men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in Iseyin on the day of Sallah is settling, it is imperative to ask this question; is the 35 bags of rice, reported to have caused the harvest of lives, equivalent to the value placed on these lives?
The incident has forced me to look back on the activities of smugglers and the Customs personnel over the period I was growing in this ancient town of Iseyin. Situations of this manner have happened before where human lives were taken by the officers within the town, people would wail, properties would be born by angry mob and within a spate of one month, everything would go back to the ‘unfortunate normal’.
I remember the gruesome killing of Rasaki Were N’ise Oluwa on a heap of refuse at Oja-Oba, the heart of the town, by these bloodthirsty officers on the 7th June 2009. He was shot at close range around ten in the evening, while he was having an issue over his seized goods. The corpse was there till the following day.
Late Sam Ayeni was also killed along Iseyin to Otu by these officers, even though so many thought it was a robbery attack at the time of the incident, but we later got information that NCS men did it.
According to Bill Clinton, the former American President, “..each bloodletting hastens the next, and as the value of human life is degraded and violence becomes tolerated, the unimaginable becomes more conceivable.” We must all rise this time around to condemn this barbaric act and put a stop to it.
Smuggling is an illegal business, a drain on the national purse and it is for the reason of stopping or at least, reducing it that the Federal government institute the Customs and Excise Act, which empowers the men of the agency to seize goods illegally brought into the country through water, air and land borders.
Iseyin town is enterprising, with good weather, peopled by residents that always welcome and make visitors feel at home. The people do not deserve to be killed for the value of rice. The same way they have been voicing their reservation against cow herders that kill farmers over the value placed on their cows, which make them believe they have the right to feed the animals on people’s farms.
The Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Dr. Abdganiy Salawudeen Adekunle Oloogunebi (Ajinese1), the Chairman, Iseyin Development Union, Alhaji Bayo Raji, Iseyin Council of Elders, National Coordinator, Alliance for Oke-Ogun Development, Comrade Fasasi Abiodun, Ebedi Frontliners, Iseyin have all condemned the incessant killing of innocent people by those whose statutory duty is to protect their lives and economic prospects.
In their different emotional outputs, they called for the arrest and trial of the officers involved in the killing and declared that never would the community allow Nigerian Customs personnel have their offices or bases within the town. Even though I support these lines of resolutions, but my doubt is still on the irrevocability of the decision to send the officers out of the town.
In the next two weeks, like it always happened, one senior officer of the Customs would come through Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, to plead for peace between residents and his personnel, the leadership of the smugglers would be invited to peace meetings, smugglers would buy another vehicles for the customs to replace the ones they burnt and the men in grey uniform would open the boarders for easy movement of contrabands, just to assuage frayed nerves of the smugglers.
Who lost? We, the bystanders that get hit by stray bullets whenever they start their madness again. I was told the two sides engaged in negotiation for the seized goods along Okeho-Iseyin road but it failed before it led to the bloody fracas.
For the first time, I appreciated the Senator representing Oyo North Senatorial District, Senator Fatai Buhari, for paying a condolence visit to the families of the unfortunate incident on Friday, but I charge him to go back to the Red Chamber and legislate on the need to restructure the service of the NCS in line with the codes and ethics of such agency around the world.
Our representative at the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Shina Peller, used the day of mourning at home to celebrate his birthday at Ibadan. That, I call ‘dancing on the graves of the dead’. Those that are close to him should advise him that people’s representatives do not abandon them at critical periods for frivolities.
Again, I want to stand with the resolutions of the various leaders of thought in Iseyin and outside to address the attitude of men of Nigerian Customs Service to human lives, at least Colin Smith said it in one of his gospel books that “Human life is created in God’s image, and that makes it sacred.”
Alhazan Abiodun Rilwan is the Publisher of The Chronicler Newspaper.