11 June 2014, Lagos – Hundreds of lives, including those of security men and vandals, have been lost to pipelines explosions at Arepo, a community in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State. The community is host to several oil pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation, NNPC .
The vandals are fond of deliberately breaking or rupturing pipelines which transport refined petroleum products from the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos to the Western states, including Kwara State.
The NNPC said it lost about N3.6billion to last year’s pipeline vandalism of its System 2B Pipeline at Arepo, in Ogun State. Aside the financial losses, Vanguard Features, VF, learnt that no fewer than 20 suspected pipeline vandals were burnt to death when a ruptured NNPC pipeline exploded into flames.
The vandals were said to have gone to the area to siphon petroleum products from the ruptured pipeline which caught fire and consumed them.
It was gathered that the explosion was sparked off by one of the vandals who released a gunshot into the air to assert his superiority over his colleagues. VF checks revealed that these vandals have become kings, wielding enormous powers which the security personnel attached to the facilities, cannot match.
In fact, the gains from the illicit oil deals in Arepo creeks appear to be too attractive for the vandals and their accomplices, hence they are not willing to let go in a hurry. They usually defy the men of the Nigeria Police Force, whose station is located about 500 metres away from the creeks, to siphon fuel with ease. There are unsubstantiated claims by the residents that these vandals are aided by men in uniform. This allegation is premised on the fact that apart from the police, other military personnel occasionally patrol the area but with little or no result to show for their ‘efforts’.
VF recalls that a few months ago, a traditional ruler in the area, Oba Solomon Oyebi, gave the security outfit another office within the town distinct from the portion of land he had earlier given to the security men to build their security post.
A recurring decimal
Pipelines vandalism has become a recurring decimal since 2010. It, however, assumed a deadly dimension between 2013 and this year. Their renewed onslaught came on January 11, 2014 when they (vandals) destroyed some NNPC facilities in the area. The incident led to multiple deaths. Apparently not satisfied with this attack, the vandals two weeks later, struck again and were able to escape.
It was, however, learnt that some of the oil thieves and their lieutenants were consumed in the inferno caused by the vandalism. Two rival groups which were involved in the illicit oil business, were said to have engaged in hot arguments which resulted into gunshots being fired by them indiscriminately.
The latest incident which left in its trail the disappearance of some policemen after a gun duel with the hoodlums, has unsettled the hitherto peaceful community. Spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye explained that the difficult terrain of the area is hampering access to the place, thereby making it difficult to apprehend the notorious vandals.
It would be recalled that at least nine policemen attached to the Inspector-General of Police Special Anti ‑ Vandalism squad, were allegedly apprehended by the oil thieves. VF learnt from a security source that Police authorities did not want to disclose the actual number of missing policemen in order not to discourage their colleagues and aggravate the security situation in the country.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the Ogun State, Muyiwa Adejobi, had told VF after the abduction that many people were trapped in the incident. But he refused to confirm the actual figure of missing policemen.
Meanwhile, residents of the area have cried out for help from the government to quickly arrest these incidents. Those who spoke to VF noted that peace has eluded the area. Many of them alleged that the vandals are not living in the neighbourhood. Their fear is that another explosion may soon erupt in the community with its attendant devastation.
An unconfirmed report claimed that some security men in the area have a pact with the vandals. The recent attacks, according to the allegation, was sequel to a breach of that pact by the security personnel who attacked the vandals. It was also gathered that the vandals resorted to the abduction of the policemen to punish them for reneging on their agreement.
Despite these allegations, the traditional ruler of the area, Oba Oyebi wants urgent steps to be taken to stem the rising occurrence of pipelines vandalism in the predominantly farming community. He regretted that their farmlands have been destroyed and rivers contaminated by the activities of these oil thieves.