By EVELYN USMAN, BOSE ADELAJA & MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO
LAGOS — Tragedy struck yesterday in Majidun-Ilaje area of Ikorodu, Lagos, after a 35-year-old man was shot dead during a violent clash between pipeline vandals and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
About eight officials of the Corps escaped death by whiskers the previous day, following attempt by some pipeline vandals to set them ablaze, in a bid to avoid being arrested.
However , at the end of a renewed raid at the vandals’ hide-out, yesterday, 60 of them were arrested,with the recovery of arms and ammunition from them.
But their arrest was not easy as the suspected vandals reportedly attacked the officials, injuring some of them and destroying their vehicle in the process.
The suspected vandals said to have taken over the area, also smashed windscreens of unsuspecting motorists plying the route.
Among the vehicles destroyed was a LAGBUS which ran into the rampaging vandals. Several persons were said to have been also injured in the process, while others lost their valuables while running for safety.
Report said NSCDC officials stormed the area to effect the arrest of the vandals who were engaged in scooping petroleum product from broken pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Sunday night. Residents said they usually came in trucks and big cans to scoop fuel.
But on sighting the officials at about 10p.m. Sunday night, some of the vandals reportedly laid ambush while others remained at the spot, with their hands raised up, pretending to own up to the offence.
But as the officials were about to apprehend them, their members reportedly came out of hiding and immediately struck a stick of matches on some product suspected to be petrol which was in front of the officials.
Spokesman for Lagos State Command of the NSCDC, Kehinde Bada, when contacted, explained: ‘’Around 10p.m. of yesterday, (Sunday) some pipeline vandals were operating around Majidun area of Ikorodu, moving petroleum products and when our men got there, the vandals went on rampage and attacked them to the extent that they almost set them ablaze.
Today (yesterday), we got intelligence report that the vandals were back to the spot. We reinforced and went back to make arrest. But on getting there, they launched an attack at our men but our men were able to apply caution.
Confirming the arrest, Commandant of the state command of the NSCDC, Shem Obafaiye, said, “The suspects were arrested at Majidun area in Ikorodu around 12noon .
It was battle for battle during the arrest, but at the end, we arrested 60 people. Some of my injured men are receiving treatment in the hospital. The suspects will soon be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC.
The incident reportedly caused a hitch in the free flow of traffic as motorists who apparently thought it was a robbery operation, abandoned their vehicles and fled for safety.
But the arrested suspects denied having anything to do with the attack on the officials.
Meanwhile, the deceased’s sister, who simply identified herself as Iya Wariz, said she gave her late brother, Sule, N1000 note to buy food . “I gave him money to buy food for me at Majidun Bus-stop. I waited for several hours without seeing him. Later, one of his friends rushed to tell me that he was shot by Civil Defence people,” she said and burst into tears.
When Vanguard visited the scene at about 1 p.m. yesterday, several shops were still shut, with some of the traders’ wares littered all over the ground.
A man who claimed to be an apprentice to the late Sule, Josuah, told Vanguard that his boss was not a vandal.
According to him, “my boss was on his way to buy food when the Civil Defence man sighted him and shot him in the head twice.