Business activities were brought to a halt at the cargo section of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Wednesdayfollowing a clash between officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and clearing agents over alleged manhandling of a senior customs officer.
Two people were injured in the fracas as people scampered for safety after sporadic gunshots were reportedly heard at the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company.
A visit by our correspondent showed that riot police were stationed in the area with an Amoured Personnel Carrier. About eight custom patrol pickups were also drafted to the scene of the incident.
There was also intermittent shooting of tear gas by the NCS men.
Findings revealed that trouble began when the Customs Area Comptroller, Mr. Taju Olarewaju, attempted to enter NAHCO warehouse as part of measures to implement some reforms that would make the clearing of goods seamless.
Olarewaju, who resumed duties at the MMA a few months ago, was prevented from gaining entry despite introducing himself as the CAC.
One of the agents was said to have pushed him, a situation that reportedly infuriated other customs agents.
Attempts by other customs officials to prevent the CAC from being assaulted, it was gathered, led to the fracas.
Agents were driven out of their offices allegedly by customs officials, who allegedly reinforced from the Federal Operations Unit, while some were trapped in their offices, as they could not flee from the scene of the incident.
The President of the Association of Foreign Airlines’ Representatives in Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma, who confirmed the development to our correspondent, said some agents were disgruntled by some of the changes the CAC had been trying to introduce to the airport.
He said, “We learnt that the CAC was manhandled and his car was also vandalised in the process by agents who have not been comfortable with the tight measures he introduced at the warehouse to reduce the issues of underhand dealings and shortcuts there.
“As a result, air force police and soldiers had to be drafted to the area to forestall further breakdown of law and order.”
An agent, Mr. Yemi Adegbusi, said that the CAC tried to gain entry into the warehouse during their break time, which was again the agent’s rule.
He said that the customs started beating up everyone, including women, at the cargo terminal complex.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Emmanuel Njoku, refused to comment on the issue.