Three women between the ages of 25-30 lost their lives on Thursday, March 26, 2015 when the bus they boarded somersaulted after it was knocked off the road along Lagos-Benin highway by a patrol vehicles driven by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service.
According to eyewitness account, the driver of the bus allegedly refused to stop when flagged down at the Customs checkpoint, which resulted in the tragic chase.
Reports shows that the commuter bus with registration number EDO AKA 35 LG, with the inscription, Ovia North LG, carrying second hand clothes also known as ‘okirika’, somersaulted during the hot chase by the Customs operatives who allegedly hit it from behind with their own pick-up van in an effort to forcefully stop the bus.
Apart from the three young women, described as petty traders who died on the spot, the bus driver also lost a leg in the accident while several other passengers sustained severe injuries.
Reacting to the allegations, spokesperson of the Federal Operations Units (FOU), Customs Zone A, Lagos, Uche Ejesieme, denied that the pursuing operatives hit the bus, insisting that the vehicles ran off the road and somersaulted while speeding off to avoid being caught.
According to him, the Customs team led by Customs Assistant Controller Yahyah Biri-Usman, suspected the vehicle to be carrying contraband second-hand clothing and promptly flagged the driver to stop for checking but rather than oblige, he drove off, thereby prompting the pursuit.
“The driver disregarded all calls to him to stop, even with the aid of a public address system mounted on the patrol vehicle. While trying to maneuver his ways, the driver crossed over to the other lane of the express and was driving dangerously in one-way against the traffic, and in the process, his vehicle skidded off and somersaulted leading to the unfortunate loss of lives at the spot.
“However, nine bales of second hand clothing were recovered from the ill-fated bus while the dead persons were evacuated with the assistance of the police who also joined us in conveying those injured to a nearby hospital”.
He also added that the issue was undergoing police investigations but however maintained that his men did not drive their patrol vehicle into the commuter bus as alleged.
“We condole with the families of those that lost their lives in the unfortunate incident, as we value human lives and could not have done anything to jeopardize the live of a single person, no matter what is at stake.
“As a disciplined organization, the Nigeria Customs Service strongly believe that nothing whatsoever is worth the life of a single human being, hence we have always exercise caution in returning fire-for-fire even when we are confronted by smugglers with fire arms”, he said.