On August 9, around 8 am, a notorious smuggler was trying to make his way with bags of foreign rice through the Nigeria-Niger border in the Jibiya area of Katsina State. A group of customs officers ran after him, driving recklessly.
The smuggler was driving a J5 Peugeot. He had refused to stop at a Customs checkpoint in Batsari, near the Jibiya area of the state. The officers chased him as he scrambled with his vehicle filled with bags of rice.
While chasing the smuggler, the officers’ driver suddenly lost control, ran into bystanders who were mostly villagers, crushing them. As soon as their vehicle stopped, the officers took to their heels, leaving the victims of the accident to their fate, according to eyewitnesses.
Angry youth at the scene of the incident set the Customs vehicle ablaze. Although Gambo Isa, the spokesman of the Katsina State Police Command, claimed only five people were killed during the incident, FIJ can exclusively report that no less than 10 persons died.
We obtained the names of the victims and reached out to some of the families of the deceased, who lamented government abandonment since the incident.
ADAMU ILIYASU, DIED WHILE BUYING ‘KUNU’
It was a drizzly Monday morning. Awal Iliyasu, 60, had sent his son Adamu to buy him some kunu, a local Hausa drink made from millets. Adamu was reluctant to go out but eventually left for the Jibiya motor park.
Before running the errand, the eighth son of his father was indoors after returning from an Islamic school.
“Later on, he went to the motor park to buy the kunu. The next news we heard was a tragedy,” said Awal. “By then, he was dead.”
GARBA LAWAL, 60, FATHER TO 16 CHILDREN
Garba Lawal left his home on the day of the fatal incident to fend for his family. The father of 16 children and three wives had borrowed some money from Idi Mai Shago, his younger brother, and set out for the day. He did not return alive.
“We met just some minutes before 8:00 am,” said Mai Shago. “He told me he was going out to hustle to feed his family. I bade him farewell.”
Lawal left to get himself breakfast. He was on his way when the Customs Hilux ran into him and other people. He died before getting to the hospital.
INVITED TO COME AND DIE
Badaru Halilu and Musa Nagari, his cousin, were killed while going to pay a condolence visit to a family member. Badaru had set out to go to the farm when he met Musa, who asked him to convey him to a nearby village with a motorcycle.
Before the takeoff, Musa chatted with his uncle’s children while Badaru and another family member waited.
“Suddenly, what we saw was that a Customs vehicle chasing a rice smuggler swept through everybody standing by the road, including the four people I was with,” said Aminu, Badiru’s father. “My son died instantly, while Musa Nagari died on his way to the hospital.”
Aminu added that some of his kinsmen, who were victims of the accident, were in the hospital.
FROM FRYING PAN TO FIRE
Murtala Tasi’u and his family had just fled Tagwaye Village in Kaduna State for Jibiya due to insecurity. But Khadija Murtala, his daughter, was killed the week they arrived in the area.
The Primary 2 pupil had gone to hawk when the Customs patrol Hilux crushed her. Her father said he regretted letting her out to hawk on the day of the fatal accident.
“At Tagwaye village, we couldn’t sleep at home due to the fear of bandits. We got tired and moved completely to Jibiya,” he said. “She had not been in school since we moved to Jibiya. So, we asked her to hawk dates at the park. And that was where she fell victim to the accident.”
However, the Katsina State Customs Service denied chasing any smuggler, insisting that what happened to the officers was an accident that could happen to anyone.
“What we know is that it was an accident that can occur to anyone,” said Danbaba Isa, the Public Relations Officer of the Service in the state.
“The accident occurred this morning after some of our officers finished eating and were returning to their checkpoint. Their vehicle developed a brake fault, and it resulted in the accident.”
Eyewitnesses’ accounts disputed the narratives provided by customs authorities on the incident. Residents who spoke with FIJ said the authorities were only trying to shy away from their responsibilities.