BY EVELYN USMAN
LAGOS — Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit, have arrested 10 suspected pipeline vandals who allegedly broke the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, pipelines in Elekete area of Ogun State to siphon petroleum products, at the weekend.
Recovered from the suspects were four boats and 140 jerrycans, of which 62 were filled with siphoned petroleum products.
Parading the suspects and exhibits before newsmen, yesterday, the unit’s commander, Friday Ibadin, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, explained that the vandals earlier stormed the area, Saturday night, where they broke one of the pipelines and loaded an unspecified amount of petroleum product.
Not satisfied, he said two separate gangs stormed the creeks again, Sunday night, but were arrested by the operatives led by the Lagos State Sector Commander, Osas Onaghaise, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, before they started siphoning.
He said four of the suspected vandals who earlier stormed the scene to siphon petroleum product were apprehended on their way out with the recovery of 62 jerrycans filled with petroleum products.
Ibadin said: “These suspects are among those that have been on our wanted list. With their arrest, we believe respite will return to this area. Currently, the pipeline had been opened because it was shut down to allow repairs to be carried out at the broken portions. They will be charged to court.”
Access to the terrain
He, however, attributed the cause of the vandals access to the terrain to low waters which needed only canoes to reach.
He said: “We are combatants and can only patrol the waters with canoes. Speed boats can’t be used there because of the level of the water. That not withstanding, we are using the available platforms at our disposal and this has so far paved the way for us.”
We use detergent to clear our tracks
Although the arrested suspects, all of whom came from OndoState, claimed that was their first time in the illicit business, they disclosed that to cover their tracks, they came with three bags of detergent, which they intended to apply at the end of their operation.
One of the suspects, Precious Osuwo, 24, said: “I am a puller. I was contracted to pull the boat and the siphoned product out at the end of the operation. We were three that came from OndoState. One Terry invited me, saying the business was lucrative. My job was not to be involved in siphoning the product but to pull the boat out at the end of which I would be given N20,000 or more, depending on the number of jerrycans we were able to fill.
“We came with detergent. They said the detergent would be used to clear the area at the end of the operation, in order not to give any clue to security men. The detergent is also meant to prevent fire incident which usually occur when vandals are running from security operatives. But we were unable to use it before we were arrested.”
I invested N400,000 into this business
On his part, Gbataomini Isepe who hails from OndoState, said he was forced to abandon his local gin business otherwise known as ogogoro in OndoState, after a friend convinced him that pipeline vandalism was a lucrative business.
He said: “I am an ogogoro seller and palm wine tapper, married with seven children. I invested about N400,000 that I have saved since I started the ogogoro and palm wine business. I used it to buy canoe and drums because I was made to understand I would realise the amount at the end of a successful operation. I was told to come here by a friend. He specifically told me to come on Sunday at about 9 p.m because by then those inspecting the pipeline would have gone. Unfortunately, I was arrested and all the money I managed to save in my entire life is gone.”
I was lured into it out of frustration
For Samson John (18), he was lured into the illicit business out of frustration. According to him,“all those I approached to assist me with N75,000 to buy camera ignored me. I learnt photography but had no equipment to stay on my own. I even met some so-called commissioners in my state to assist but they ignored me because I am not a woman.
“So I learnt that vandal business was striving here and decided to come down with the aim of realising money to buy my camera, only to be arrested. If I am left off the hook, I swear, I will never go back. If I do, police should shoot me dead.”