It was learnt that the suspects were arrested on Saturday morning after a combined team of NSCDC officials from the Lagos and Ogun state commands engaged in a gun duel with some pipeline vandals.
Among those arrested are a 12-year-old boy, Azeez Ajani; a 13-year-old boy, Michael Oyedotun, two pastors, six women and 20 others.
The Commandant, Ogun State Command, Mr. Akinwande Aboluwoye, said over 20,000 litres of stolen fuel were recovered from the vandals.
He said, “We got a tip-off that the vandals were going to operate early on Saturday morning, so we intensified surveillance. They were arrested with their canoes and 400 jerry cans of petrol, each jerry can contained 50 litres.
“The vandals had engaged us in a gun duel and when the heat became too much, they abandoned the products, jumped into the water and escaped. However, we were able to apprehend their cohorts who live in the area.”
Aboluwoye said the canoes had been set ablaze while security had been beefed up in the area.
A resident, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said the suspects carried out pipeline vandalism in an organised fashion.
She said, “The men usually come at midnight to break pipelines. The children assist them in loading the petrol into kegs, which are later kept inside the houses of residents. The role of the women is to source for buyers who usually come during the day to buy the fuel at cheap prices.
“When I realised this trend, I quickly informed the NSCDC to avert a fire disaster.”
The suspects, however, denied the allegations, saying they were not pipeline vandals, but new residents of the area.
The 12-year-old suspect said, “I am a tailor’s apprentice in the area. My father is late and my mother lives in Ajah. I don’t know anything about pipeline vandalism. I leave home very early everyday and I come in late at night so I never know what is happening in the area.
“The only thing I know is that when I wake up in the morning, I usually see jerry cans in the area.”
The 13-year-old suspect, who also claimed to be a tailor’s apprentice, said he was about to bathe in the Ogun River when he was apprehended by the NSCDC officials.
“My parents live in Ifo, I only moved to the area recently. Please, I know nothing about this. My parents don’t even know that I have been arrested.”
A pastor, Nikuleyi Adesola, said he was arrested while leaving church with two other female members.
“I am a carpenter and also a pastor. I live in a mission house. I was with two female members when the civil defence men order us to come out. I am not a vandal,” he said.
The commandant said the suspects would be charged to court, adding that past investigations had shown that women and children were also involved in the illegitimate business.
– The Punch