By Leke Adeseri, South West Editor, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Daud Olatunji & Angela Okpe
LAGOS — The Federal Government, yesterday, spoke of plans to sponsor death penalty bill against vandals and others who attack critical national assets.
This came on a day military and police authorities opened up on the prosecution of Operation Awathe in the South Western Coast, promising to terminate activities of vandals and militants who have terrorised the people of the area and vandalised critical state assets.
Assistant Inspector General, AIG, Zone 2, comprising Lagos and Ogun states, Abdulmajeed Ali, who disclosed this in Lagos, described vandals operating in Arepo and environs as criminals who would be treated as such.
This came as Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, ordered the destruction of boats, jerry cans and other facilities used and abandoned by suspected militants at Arepo area of the state.
Commenting on the military operation against Arepo vandals, Ali said: “Threats from pipeline vandals in Arepo area and its environs will soon be a thing of the past.”
The Police boss, who spoke on resumption of duty in the Zone at Onikan in Lagos, said also that those operating at Arepo should not be called militants but hoodlums, stressing that plans are in top gear to advise government to sponsor a bill that will prescribe death penalty for the criminals.
He said: “I do not consider those groups as militants. They are hoodlums. They are robbers, kidnappers in disguise. I have dealt with them before and I will continue to deal with them in their hideouts. We are trying to get the government prescribe capital punishment for them.
“I want to commend the Lagos State governor for the support given to the Nigeria Police. I was impressed with all the equipment supplied by the government. We shall continue to work in the two commands and ensure security. I will start by declaring my vision of things that I will like to address and things that I will not tolerate.
“The only thing that is constant in life is change and change is inevitable, we should expect changes in all ramifications. “It is crystal clear that based on the present security challenges in the two zones; there will be a need to have an overall policing strategy for effective security of lives and properties within the two zones.
“On issues of insecurity, I will continue to collaborate with the military and other security agencies, with a view to achieving the common goal. I detest terrorism, kidnapping, robbery and other vices. I consider them as murderers. I will also assure you that anyone caught in these acts will be brought to book.”
Operation Awathe: Military, Police open up
Meanwhile, Military and police authorities, yesterday, opened up on the prosecution of Operation Wathe in the South Western Coast, promising to terminate activities of vandals and militants.
This is evident in the continued bombardment of the criminal’s hideouts by government troops as what started like a one-off operation, last Thursday, continued with a mop-up, yesterday.
The ongoing operation involves Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Army, the Department of State Services, DSS, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Police.
Deploying aerial and land arsenals, the military has dealt severe blow to the criminals that had long engaged in vices such as pipeline vandalism, robbery, murder, rape and kidnapping.
Although the troops rained more shelling on Ishawo, Igando and Igbolomu areas of Ikorodu in Lagos State, and Arepo, Awawa, Elepete and Ibafo in Ogun State on Sunday. yesterday’s operation was a kind of mop-up exercise since the surviving criminals were nowhere in sight.
No innocent lives lost — Military
Reacting, spokesman of the Defence Headquarters, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, assured that no innocent resident had been hit by the air raid.
Abubakar said: “There is no way innocent persons would be hit because what we are doing is ‘precision attack on registered target or identified location’.
“No innocent Nigerian was hit. The attack is on the criminals who hide in the creeks. We are still carrying out the raid. We are not carrying out military attack on Ijaw.
“We are carrying out the operation against criminals. We don’t tag them. Militants are militants. We don’t want to know if they are Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. Our war is against pipeline vandals and oil thieves.”
Vandals retreat as joint taskforce secure area
Meantime, serenity, yesterday, pervaded the Iroko creeks and surrounding communities at Arepo area of Ogun State which had been a battle ground for the past few days, as the joint military taskforce, yesterday, secured the area after forcing the suspected oil pipeline vandals to retreat.
Vanguard gathered that some residents in the affected areas continued leaving their abode in large numbers to seek refuge elsewhere, pending the time total peace and tranquillity would be restored in the area.
A source who preferred anonymity, said: “As we speak, report has it that the taskforce team has secured the entire area after forcing the vandals to retreat.
“The superior fire power of the security team forced the vandals, who have earlier engaged in cross fire, to look for escape routes.
“The fully armed taskforce team is still on ground for the operation to further secure the area. We are on top of the situation.
“We, hereby, want to assure the people of the community not to panic as their lives and properties are well protected. We also urge them to go about their normal businesses without any fear whatsoever.”
It was, however, gathered that since the commencement of hostility between the taskforce team and vandals, there was no gun duel, yesterday, because the militants had gone into hiding.
On Ikorodu Isawo area, security operation was reported to be on going at press time, as the entire area was said to be calm and quiet, even as residents continued to flee the area as well.
Amosun orders destruction of vandals’ boats, jerry cans
Amosun gave the order, yesterday, during an on-the-spot-assessment visit to the creeks in Ebute-Ojora, in Ibafo axis of Obafemi-Owode Local Government area of the state, which had hitherto been inhabited by militants and vandals.
Amosun, who was shocked by hundreds of jerry cans found on the surface of the water in one of the creeks, ordered their immediate destruction.
He added that about 500 metres to the creeks would be cleared to open up the area, noting that the criminals with this development would no longer have a place to hide.
The governor, however, pledged support for the federal government to sustain the peace which had been restored at the creeks in the state following the bombardment of the areas by the military.
It would be recalled that the military had launched offensive on the creeks at Arepo, Ogijo and Ibafo areas of the state, during which scores of suspected militants were killed.
Amosun appealed to the federal government against untimely withdrawal of military personnel drafted to maintain peace in the six communities.
The governor, who was received amidst jubilation and cheers by hundreds of residents, was accompanied by his deputy, Chief Yetunde Onanuga; top government functionaries and security chiefs in the state.
He said: “I want to appeal that we should not just leave this place like that. Yes, the criminals have run away for obvious reasons but we have what I call a force beyond theirs. You know ordinarily they will come here and commit all sorts of crime.
“But when they saw the superior fire power of our military, they fled and that is why you see all these traces (abandoned jerry cans and boats.) They were well organised.
“We quickly want to implore that all these jerry cans should be destroyed, all their boats and all these things they used so that it will not be business as usual.
“There is still a lot to be done because now they’ve seen this and ran away, but something tells me that with what they have seen they ordinarily will not want to regroup but we never can say. Criminals will always be criminals. We should be ready for them.”