By Evelyn Usman and Bose Adelaja
Arepo village, in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, has been in the news recently, no thanks to activities of pipeline vandals.
But vandalisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s pipelines in the area, which supplies fuel from Lagos to Ibadan, Ilorin and the northern part of the country, has been on for a long time. It only came to the notice of the larger Nigerian society last September, following an explosion that rocked the area, during an operation by the vandals.
The incident therefore, woke security operatives from their slumber, as they convened to brainstorm on measures to nip future occurrences in the bud.
But alas! They were taken off guard, as the vandals resisted their efforts, by engaging them in a shoot-out in the massive creeks. However, in the end, they bowed to the superior fire power of men of the Inspector-General of Police Special Anti-Pipeline Vandalism and Policemen from the Ogun State Police Command. But the vandals’ exit from the Arepo pipeline was only temporary, as they resurfaced few days later, having re-stock their armory.
Unfortunately, three officials of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, (PPMC), who were deployed to effect repairs on the broken pipelines, were the first to taste the vandals’ weapons. They were killed and buried in shallow graves around the creeks last year.
Again, on January, 11, 2013, Nigerians woke up to the news of another explosion in Arepo,while some vandals were scooping fuel from system 2B. This time around, the vandals, drank enough dose of their own medicine, as some of them were gutted by fire from the explosion.
With this incident, one would have expected others to learn a lesson from their colleagues’ demise by deserting the illicit business.
But no! Rather, like a dog that will always return to its vomit, they stormed Arepo again to attack NNPC pipelines,barely two weeks after and set same system 2B which was earlier repaired, on fire, after scooping the petroleum product.
Accusation and counter-accusation
Although the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti Pipeline Vandalism disclosed that it arrested some suspected vandals believed to have taken part in virtually all the listed incidents of vandalism, but there were indications that an insider, either from the Police, Civil Defence, NNPC or the Community leaders in Arepo had a hand in the whole vandalisation saga in the area.
Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun , who could not hide his consternation over the incessant explosions at the NNPC pipelines, bluntly accused officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of aiding the vandals, saying, that they deliberately abandoned the pipeline in order for it to be damaged by hoodlums.
Said he; “ I have to say it and I am saying it with every sense of responsibility that, NNPC by its inaction, is aiding and abetting the vandals. I want to believe that they are part of this pipeline vandalism with their inaction. Because, you can’t have somebody there as Group Managing Director and allow this to happen. Look at the canoe NNPC is using at this age and time.
“Look at where they said the security watchtower is. Who will stay there to watch anything? This is not good for us as a nation, we are our own enemies. Public property are not looked after. We should do the right thing. This is a multi-billion naira investment.
“How can we not spend a small amount to maintain it? That is why I said NNPC with their inaction are part of this problem. I want to believe that they are the people aiding and abetting these vandals.
Chairman of the Journalists Estate Residents Association in Arepo village, Mr Gbayode Somuyiwa, on his part, accused security operatives of having an unholy alliance with the vandals, declaring that they had failed in their responsibility of safeguarding the area against activities of hoodlums,while the Director- General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Dr. Ade Abolurin pointed accusing finger on communities around Arepo.
To buttress his claim,Abolurin visited Arepo last Thursday,where it was discovered to the astonishment of all, that pipes were laid from various houses to connect with NNPC pipelines in the stream,from where petroleum products were freely siphoned whenever the system is opened by NNPC.
During the visit and tour round the area, a storey building located on Frank Ogbor Close, was discovered not be a residential apartment after all. Rather, it was discovered to have an underground pipe which also links the NNPC pipelines in the creeks.
It was gathered that most times, human movements were noticed around the building,with trucks driving in and out of it.
Crime Alert gathered that whenever the pipeline systems would be shut from the creeks by NNPC, some of the vandals would break a system in the creeks, from where they would connect a hose that would channel the product to the building, for onward loading into trucks.
On the day of the last explosion, some of the vandals were said to have been in the building monitoring the loading process. While on it, another gang was reportedly at the creek for same purpose until the explosion occurred.
In order to deceive security operatives and NNPC officials, the vandals, as gathered, destroyed signposts which indicated there were buried pipelines in the area,only to build make- shift houses on them, from where they carry out their nefarious activities.
Strategic measures to check activities of vandals
Following the startling discovery, Abolurin disclosed that NSCDC was collaborating with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, in the area of training of 100 NSCDC personnel in Maritime safety, with a view to bringing activities of oil thieves, pirates to its barest minimum.
Abolurin, who reiterated the Corps’ willingness to work in collaboration with NIMASA to put an end to the menace of vandals at Arepo, also called for the need for dedicated courts to be established for cases of vandalism.
The courts, he said, “will have a team of uncompromising lawyers from both agencies who will be charged with the responsibility of handling all cases relating to oil bunkering and piracy; sophisticated technology will be introduced to fight activities of these criminals as done in other countries.”