By Evelyn Usman
LAGOS — There was shoot-out between Naval personnel and vandals at Ilado-Odo/Inagbe beach in Idi-Mangoro area of Lagos, weekend. It lasted for over an hour.
The Naval personnel had stormed the island, based on intelligence that vandals were operating an illegal fuel depot in the area to siphon petroleum products from Atlas Cove in Lagos, which supplies products to Mosimi in Ogun State and Ejigbo depot in Lagos.
Vanguard gathered that as soon as the vandals sighted the Naval personnel drawn from NNS Beecroft, Apapa, they opened fire on them.
The Naval personnel responded, leading to fire fight for over an hour.
The superior fire power of the Navy, it was learned, caused the vandals to flee, leaving behind over 1,350 jerry cans filled with petrol, charms and other materials used for the illegal activities.
When journalists visited the island weekend, a hole dug along the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, pipeline passage was seen at Phase 2 of the Island.
Inside the hole was a valve where a hose was affixed, ostensibly to divert petroleum products from Atlas Cove.
There were also over 30,000 empty jerry cans with different inscriptions, such as ANA, ABA, MNA, LR, UPV, BH, OBO, etc to indicate their respective owners.
There were traces of vehicle tyres in the sand, which indicated movement to Badagry and Lagos Anchorage ends of the Island.
Oil spillage was also discovered on the backward water.
Villagers in the community were seen peeping from their huts when they sighted naval personnel and journalists.
At Phase 1 of the Island, there were over 50 storage barns where jerrycans filled with siphoned petroleum products were kept, even as empty jerrycans were also heaped in front of the barns and inside the bush.
Over 2,000 jerrycans moved out daily
Information gathered during the visit revealed that the products were usually moved out of the island in vehicles at night.
Most of the villagers approached refused to speak, apparently out of fear of being attacked by the vandals after the exit of the visitors. However, one of them who spoke on the condition of strict anonymity, revealed that over 2,000 jerrycans are moved out of the island daily. He disclosed that 25-litre jerrycans were usually packed inside a sack and taken in vehicles towards Badagry.
The villager, who spoke in pidgin, said the practice had been going on for a long time.
OPC members desert camp
During the visit, members of Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, who were contracted by the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to man the pipelines were nowhere to be found. Their watch tower located at Phase 2 of the island was deserted.
They abandoned some of their cooking utensils, such as pots and sachet water in some of their huts.
Commenting on the recovery, the Commander, NNS Beecroft, Rear Admiral Maurice Eno, said: “Intelligence report received by the NNS Beecroft revealed the presence of the vandals and thieves around Ilado Odo Phase II, Ilashe, Corner Loss, Sarkin Juju and Inagbe beach at Idi-Mangoro areas of Atlas Cove Island, Lagos.
“The base monitored the activities around that area for about three weeks to ascertain the veracity of the information.
“On December 14, at about 8.10am, they swooped into action by deploying a detachment of personnel from NNS Beecroft, who raided the locations and discovered a storage facility having over 1,500 jerrycans. 1,330 of the jerrycans contained product suspected to be Premium Motor Spirit, believed to have been siphoned from the NNPC pipelines laid on the island. At the time of the raid, no person was found on the storage facility.
“The product was evacuated from the storage facility to NNS Beecroft base for safe custody. The team also discovered the siphoning points where valves were connected by the vandals to steal the product.
“It is pertinent to note that NNPC pipelines laid on Atlas Cove Island are under the supervision and care of Top Line Security Limited/Kings Guard Security Company. It is obvious that these acts may not have gone unnoticed by these private security outfits.
“The Nigerian Navy, under the current leadership of Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas, is determined to rid our waterways and hinterland of all forms of criminality. The Nigerian Navy Ship, Beecroft, is therefore, committed to assisting NNPC deal with the issue of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.”
Eno therefore, warned pipeline vandals and other criminal elements to desist from nefarious activities and pursue lawful means of livelihood, or be prosecuted.
OPC absolves self of involvement
When National Co-ordinator of the OPC and Aare Ona Kakanfo-designate, Gani Adams, was contacted , he said he was not aware of the incident, but he referred this reporter to one of his media aides, Femi Adepoju.
Meanwhile the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, later in a statement exonerated its members from any confrontation with naval personnel on the Island.
Its Director of Publicity, Barrister Yinka Oguntimehin, said that OPC had not been involved in any pipeline security since June 15, 2015 .
He stated rather that a private security outfit, Topline Security, was responsible for securing the Atlas Cove axis .
“The attention of Oodua Peoples Congress has been drawn to a media report linking the organization with a pipeline security engagement at Atlas Cove.
“I wish to put it on record that the OPC is not involved in any pipeline watch. The last time the organization was involved in such engagement was June15,2015 . Checks have revealed that a security outfit by the name Topline is in charge of the Atlas Cove security watch and it has no link whatsoever with Oodua Peoples Congress,” the statement read.
Effort to get the reaction of Top Line Security failed as its administrative officer, Mr. John Udeme, could not be reached on his mobile telephone.