Adeyemi Salau is a 33-year-old clearing agent in Lagos State. In this interview, he tells TOBI AWORINDE how an officer with the Federal Operations Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service shot him in the leg at Berger checkpoint after the vehicle he picked up was successfully cleared
When and why were you shot by a Customs officer?
The incident happened on March 17, 2021 at Port and Terminal Multiservices Limited on Tin Can Island, Lagos State. I was driving a 2019 Toyota RAV4 out with my client, who owns the car, sitting beside me. The Valuation Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service had given me a compromised value for the car, which I had paid. The vehicle was released from Customs and it came out that same day. When I got to Berger Yard, I was stopped by the (NCS) Federal Operations Unit. They parked two of their Hilux vans at that place and there were up to 20 officers. Because there was a heavy traffic and that place was blocked, the officer who stopped me started shouting, ‘Get down! Come down! Wind down!’ Immediately I wound down the vehicle’s window he brought out a jackknife; he wanted to stab me. I dodged it. He started hitting me with a gun. He shouted, ‘Get down from that car!’ Immediately I opened the door and brought out my leg, he shot my leg.
Are you saying he shot you intentionally and without any provocation?
Yes, he shot me intentionally, it wasn’t an accidental discharge. I said, ‘Oga, you shot me.’ He said, ‘Yes, and I will shoot you again.’ I was trying to crawl from that place, trying to get people’s attention by shouting, “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” but the Customs officer didn’t allow anybody to carry me.
I stopped a bike man; he slapped the bike man and sent him away, saying he would make sure I died there; he would put me in their van and give me water so that I would die. In the process, my boss called my phone and said, “I heard a gunshot there. Please, be very careful.” Then I told him I was the person who was shot. Immediately I said that, the officer collected my phone and put it in his pocket.
There was a guy, Monday, that stood by me and wanted to carry me but he was beaten. The guy still carried me while they continued to beat him. But the officer that shot me held me by my clothes and threw me into the gutter. I struggled to come out; he still didn’t allow anybody to carry me. One of his colleagues told him, “Leave that boy; let that boy go.” Some officers of the SPU (Special Procedures Unit) who were, maybe escorting someone from Tin Can, stopped by and were curious about the cause of the traffic. So, they came there and saw what happened. I don’t know if they (SPU officers) talked to the Customs officers but they left with those people before I crawled across the road and went to the hospital.
How did you manage to get to the hospital?
I crawled from that place to the other side of the road. Then I stopped another bike to take me to any nearby hospital. One of my friends assisted me. My wife called my number to ask me how work was going and how I was doing. The officer picked the call and said, ‘Your husband is dead. Come and carry his corpse at Ikeja.’ He then hung up, so she kept on calling – she called some of my friends and my boss. She was calling everybody, crying, before she later came to the hospital to look for me. The Divisional Police Officer, Trinity Police Station came to the hospital. One of the Customs controllers had called him to find out the situation and check on me. The DPO brought N100,000, saying the controller said he should give it to me. I said, “Okay, no problem, but I cannot collect it. Let my people come. They will collect it from you. I cannot do that without their consent.”
My relatives later went to the station to collect the N100,000. On Friday (March 19), they (Customs) sent another N100,000 to us. On Monday, I asked the person that went to collect the N100,000 to collect my phone from the officer. But Customs said they could not give anybody my phone and that I should come myself when I was strong enough to collect the phone. So, I was there last Monday (March 22), and they gave me back my phone, saying it was unfortunate and they were sorry about what happened, but that they were still doing some kind of investigation.
Did the N200,000 you were given cover the medical expenses?.
No. The advance payment I made for my treatment on that day was about N170,000, at least, to secure my life. My health is very important to me. After then, when I wanted to leave the hospital, I still paid some money. I went there last Wednesday (March 24), and they gave me a list of drugs to buy, which I bought.
Why do you think the Customs officer shot you?
I don’t know why he shot me. I read that they (Customs) said I was struggling for control of the officer’s gun. But that’s not true. If they are sure of their claim that I was struggling for the control of his gun, they should let us do a fingerprint examination.
Do you know the identity of the officer who shot you?
I don’t know his name but if I see him I will recognise him. The person who shot me is a two-star officer and the person that released the vehicle is an assistant controller. The person that issued the (vehicle’s) valuation and assigned it is a controller as well.
What happened to the owner of the car?
They beat him up as well, so, he ran away.
Do you know what happened to the car?
I saw the car the day I went to Ikeja.
How bad is the gunshot wound you sustained?.
There were two bullets. One passed through my leg and came out from the other side. Then another hit my ankle.
Did the bullet hit your bone?.
It didn’t, but I want them to remove the stitches first to be sure. I went back to the hospital after six or seven days for them to remove the stitches but they said it wasn’t yet time as blood was still oozing from the wounds. So, maybe after they remove the stitches and I get a bit better, I will go for an X-ray.
Did the doctors express any concern about the risk of amputation?
No, there is nothing like that.
How has the incident affected your livelihood?
Presently, I cannot go to work and in this line of work, if some clients don’t see you in person, it would be very difficult to do business with you and I am a family man; I have three children. But thank God I’m alive.