By Evelyn Usman
Owoye Ebiwe, 20, from Ondo state, was among the ten suspected pipeline vandals paraded Monday by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline vandalism Unit. The suspects were reportedly arrested at the verge of siphoning petroleum product from a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, located in Elekete area of Ogun state.
While all the suspects freely opened up confessing their alleged involvement in the crime, Ebiwe was unusually calm. While that lasted, he bent down, scribbling what did not make sense on the wet ground.
When approached, he raised his head and behold, he was shedding tears. Asked why he was crying, he lamented the woes he claimed had befallen him and eventually led him into the unpalatable situation he found himself.
My story: According to him, “ As I speak with you, my wife is dying in the hospital back in Ondo state. She needs money for treatment. You see, I ventured into this all in a bid to save my wife. I am an orphan. I have been struggling to make ends meet without making any headway. I have five children but lost one recently because of lack of fund to provide medicare. And now, my wife is on danger list. If she dies, tell me, who will take care of the children? She was initially taken to the hospital but because there was no money to pay for the drugs, we had to bring her home to administer local herbs on her.
“In trying to suggest a possible solution, one of my relatives, asked me to come down to Lagos; that there was a business that would fetch me money to take care of my wife and family. Without asking what type of business, I borrowed some money and left Ondo on Sunday, for Lagos. When I met him, he just said I should follow him to the place and like an obedient servant, I did, until I found myself in the creeks. That was when he informed me that some people would soon come with boats and jerrycans; that all I needed to do was to wait by the shore and bring the jerrycans out of the boats. The place was like a market place because I saw other people waiting for their members too.
“That was when it dawned on me that it was vandal business. Honestly, I did not know it was a big offense. All I was told was that I would be given a reasonable amount at the end of the day. That my relative told me he had money to buy the products; that all I needed to do was to bring the jerrycans out of the canoes and also help to sell to ready buyers at the end of which payment would be determined on the quantity sold.
I was there with him and Luke, waiting for the arrival of the boats when we were rounded up by the police. You can now see why I have been crying,” he stated.
Location of markets: While the trio were arrested at about 9pm, along side another three-man gang identified as Isaac Abejae,Towei Terryprecious Osuwo, four others said to have stormed the area the previous day, where they succeeded in siphoning petroleum product into sixty-two jerrycans were also arrested on their way out of the creeks.
One of them, Power Segmefe, 26, disclosed that they were on their way to sell the products to ready buyers in Majidun area of Lagos when luck ran against them. Like Ebiwe, he stated that he was tempted to join some vandals he met , following an urgent need of help his ailing father.
Hear him, “My father had an eye problem and had since stopped going for his timber work. I took over from him. On that fateful day (Saturday), we had gone for timber at about 6pm . When we got to the water area, I overheard a man saying the job was a lucrative one if carried out successfully. He told me he was with some jerrycans and would sell 50 litres to me at the rate of N1500 per jerrycan. I told him I was interested and stayed with him all night.
He told me I could sell them at Majidun and Ikorodu; that buyers usually throng there in the morning. I was tempted by the profit I would make and concluded that at least it would help get my father the prescribed medication for his eye problem.”
“So , next day at about 8am, as I was moving the filled jerrycans to Majidun to sell at N300,000 per 50 litres jerrycan, I was arrested. It is even better I was arrested because I do not know how I would have faced my father to tell him that the money that was borrowed was gone just like that.”
The suspects, according to the Unit’s Commander, Friday Ibadin, would be charged to court soon.