By Evelyn Usman
LAGOS—Five suspected pipeline vandals, said to be on the wanted list of the Joint Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism, have been arrested with two dane guns, 23 live cartridges and 23 vehicles used to transport siphoned products recovered from them.
The arrest, as gathered, was made Sunday after a shoot-out which lasted about 15 minutes at Wawa area of Arepo, Ogun State.
Recall that JTF operation, code-named Operation Awatse, Hausa for ‘Sweep,’ was instituted last year to checkmate excesses of vandals and to protect Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, pipelines from Atlas Cove to Mosinmi Depot.
To beat the operatives, the arrested vandals reportedly disguised as scavengers, using waste disposal trucks to convey siphoned products from vandalised pipelines to their ready buyers.
However, they met their waterloo when a patrol of the JTF comprising the Army, Navy and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, caught up with them, Sunday.
The suspects, Afeez Isiaka, Nurudeen Fatai, Oladele Godfrey, Ogbonna Agbo and Kayode Ademola were arrested, while others escaped.
Briefing newsmen while handing the suspects over to the NSCDC yesterday, the Maritime Component Commander of the JTF, Navy Captain Yahaya, said:
“Our troops were deployed for patrol on Sunday, January 10, based on intelligence report about the activities of vandals at Wawa area.
“The patrol team arrived the area and on approaching, the vandals opened fire against the troops, leading to an exchange of gunfire.
“We, however, overwhelmed the vandals and arrested five men with two dane guns and 23 live cartridges, while others escaped into the forest. Additionally, 23 different types of vehicles and nine motorcycles were recovered and several containers filled with stolen products, as well as empty containers.”
The Commander, 9 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Bulama Biu, said the Army provided support for the operation, which ensured the success of the exercise, noting that “there is a renewed vigour in this fight against pipeline vandalism and I can assure you that there will be no hiding place for these vandals.”
Also, the Commandant NSCDC Lagos State Command, Gabriel Abafi, decried the effect of pipeline vandalisation on the nation’s economy, assuring that prosecution would commence immediately.