No fewer than five people were killed and others injured after a patrol vehicle of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) rammed into a crowd in Katsina State.
The incident occurred on Monday morning in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina in Nigeria’s north-west region.
Spokesman for the Katsina State Police Command, Gambo Isa, told Channels Television via the phone that five people were killed on the spot and others were rushed to the General Hospital in Jibia.
“We have received a report that officers attached to the Border Drill Patrol followed a vehicle suspected to have been loaded with contraband,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the driver (of the Customs van) lost control of the vehicle and as a result, knocked down some people. Five of the victims died on the spot.”
Angry residents of the town – many of them engage in cross-border trades due to its proximity to the Niger Republic – reacted by burning a border patrol vehicle parked at the scene and another vehicle belonging to a man the Police PRO identified as Sani.
While the police put the number of deaths at five, some residents say the toll is likely higher.
A resident of the town, Abdulrazak Jibia, who says he witnessed the incident, told Channels Television that the accident happened after a strong dispute between the operatives and a businessman who was conveying a bag of foreign rice on a motorcycle to his village.
“The Customs officers pursued the man to arrest him upon sighting him from afar,” he said. “But the driver of the vehicle who was running on a high speed, unfortunately, ran the man over, along with 17 other people who are conducting their business by the roadside.”
Channels Television could not reach the spokesman for the Katsina Command of the NCS, Danbaba Katsina, for comments.
Danbaba was, however, quoted by Premium Times as saying that the operatives were not chasing anyone. Rather, he described the incident as an accident.
“What we know is that it was an accident that can occur to anyone,” he was quoted as saying.
“The accident occurred this morning after some of our officers finished eating and were returning to their checkpoint when their vehicle developed brake fault and it resulted in the accident.”