BY EVELYN USMAN
Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force, Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit, have arrested two suspected vandals believed to be responsible for last Thursday’s explosion that led to fire outbreak at Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, pipeline in Ilare/Imagbon area of Ikorodu, Lagos, which left some of the vandals dead.
The suspects, identified as Rotanna Ifeanyi and Soji Omomoyesan, were arrested in a herbalist’s home while receiving treatment from the burns sustained in the fire outbreak.
Trouble, as gathered, started for the duo after residents of the community, initially indicted in the pipeline vandalism saga, besieged the herbalist home and attacked the suspects, when they got wind of their presence.
They reportedly tied them up until the arrival of the policemen.
I thought I was dead— suspect
Explaining how the fire was ignited, one of the suspects, Ondo State-born Soji, 40, said it was caused by a lit cigarette.
According to him, “Jide threw the cigarette during an argument over who would first siphon petroleum product from the burst pipeline. Before we knew what was happening, there was an explosion followed by a wild fire.
“We could not escape as we were engulfed by the fire. I do not know the fate of others.
“I thought I was dead until I opened my eyes and found myself at the herbalist’s home. I was told I was dumped there by one of us who managed to escape.
“I was lured into this business because I was jobless. I was informed by a friend that they were going to siphon fuel along that route.
“He said the services of an engineer, boat paddlers and carriers were needed. I opted for boat paddler because I cannot lift two 50-litre jerry cans of petrol at once.
“We got to the place by 2am and immediately the engineers burst a portion for us to siphon, an argument ensued.
“But for the timely arrival of policemen at the herbalist’s place, the community would have finished what the fire could not.
“They tied my hands and legs and were at the verge of setting me ablaze when the policemen arrived.”
‘I was promised N200 per 50-litre jerry can’
Rotanna, 22, said he was lured by his best friend whose name he gave as Tony Olabanji, to join in the shady deal.
He said: “He told me all I needed to do was to assist the vandals and assured me that security men had not visited the area in recent times because they thought vandals were no longer operating there.
“The mission would have been accomplished had the argument not ensued. This was because on getting there, there were so many people; both the old and young, men and women were struggling to have their turn.
“I was to be paid N200 for each filled 50-litre jerry can moved from the point of filling to the car. I had already taken seven jerry cans into the vehicle and was about to lift the eighth when the fire started.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Task Force, Friday Ibadin, said; “The vandals absconded when they realised that their game was up. But some of them were roasted to death.
“I must sincerely appreciate members of Imagabon community, who assisted the police in tracking down these suspects from where they had gone for treatment.
“I encourage other communities to do same in order to bring a permanent end to pipeline vandalisation.”
He informed that the police had taken the suspects to an undisclosed hospital, where they were currently undergoing treatment, adding that they would be arraigned in court as soon as their health stabilise.