By Daud Olatunji
Ajuwa in Ikenne local government area of Ogun State is known for its agrarian nature. But many of the villagers seem to have, lately, abandoned agriculture for the more lucrative business of pipeline vandalisation. They burst the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) pipelines passing through their village to steal fuel which they sell.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that, apart from Arepo village in Obafemi-Owode local government area of Ogun State, where some vandals lost their lives while scooping fuel, last year, the next hot spot for black market for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, is Ajuwa.
Before security men raided the NNPC right of way in the village, vandalisation was said to have been a thriving activity in the area. Ajuwa is two kilometers away from the old Ogere toll gate on Lagos-Ibadan expressway and sandwiched by Ogere Water Corporation and the popular Siun market .
The well organised vandals built a wooden bridge across the river in the bush through which they get to the ‘depot’ to steal fuel. Hundreds of Jerry cans filled with stolen fuel and cars loaded with Jerry cans were seen along the road when Sunday Vanguard visited the village. There was a police check point nearby. Many travellers expressed shock when news filtered in that the vandals made use of the police ‘parking space’ in the night in the process of carrying out their operations.
It was reliably gathered that pipeline vandalisation had been on going in the area for a long time before security men raided the village and arrested 28 suspected oil thieves who were mostly youths and artisans . It was gathered that a herbalist, a pastor as well as a young woman who claimed to have just been divorced by her former husband were among the suspects. The raid, executed by men of Nigerian Army from 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta and those of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence in Ogun State, followed a tip-off by some of the villagers.
Speaking after conducting journalists round the area, the commanding officer, David Ahmadu, described the pipeline vandals’ action as economic sabotage . Also speaking at the scene, Ogun State Commander of NSCDC, Mr. Akinwande Aboluwaye, disclosed that 28 persons were arrested while seven assorted vehicles, 363 Jerry cans, a hose as well as some substances believed to be charms were part of the items recovered.
Meanwhile, some of the suspects caused a stir when they mentioned one Sergeant Adamu, believed to be attached to a police station in Ogere, as one of their sponsors. One of the suspects who gave his name as Monday Bitrus, 20, from Katsina State, said at least five vandals were working for Adamu. He claimed to have joined the business two months ago. Another suspect, Ibrahim Wasiu, 22, said, “Before my arrest, I could count five to six policemen who were working with us”.
Meanwhile, some of the villagers expressed concern over their health following the pollution of their farms and source of drinking water by the activities of the pipeline vandals.
The river in the village was said to have been polluted following the spillage of fuel into it.