03 August 2015, Lagos – Residents of Ikorodu and Arepo areas of Lagos and Ogun States went into wild jubilation, last week, when the news broke that a massive explosion, from a pipeline belonging to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, killed hundreds of pipeline vandals who had been terrorizing their areas lately.
Many had thought that the deaths, occasioned by the explosion, would deter the vandals, also accused of being the masterminds of bank robberies and kidnapping in Ikorodu, from further operating.
But the residents celebration was cut short after two photo journalists who visited the scene, at Arepo, were abducted and taken to an island, off Ikorodu, which is used as their operational base.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that, in an attempt to show their strength, some armed vandals took over the streets of Arepo, and a jetty in Ikorodu leading to their base to prevent security operatives, NNPC officials and journalists from reaching the island.
A resident, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said the vandals, armed with rifles, patrolled the streets of Arepo, clad in military and police uniforms, in search of security agents and journalists. The resident explained that the vandals had taken full control of the area and not even the police or military could enter.
“We are now living in fear. It is not like we are new to it, but it is just that we feel that this fire would reduce their number and thereby, possibly make them leave the area. As we speak, I don’t know if Arepo is no longer part of Nigeria, because these vandals are the ones calling the shots now. There’s no single police or military personnel in sight.”
Another resident urged security operatives to go after those patronizing the vandals, adding that it would help to curtail their activities. The resident explained that the increasing demand for stolen petroleum products in the area has been the main reason the vandals are still operating.
He explained: “The marketers coming into this area and Ikorodu to buy the stolen products is obviously what encourages the vandals to step up their vandalisation operation in this area. I don’t think petrol sellers go to buy from the depot anymore. Government needs to urgently move against those patronizing the vandals and bring them to justice; that is obviously how those vandals could be curtailed”.
A source at Lagos State Police Command stated that the latest explosion dealt a heavy blow to the vandals who, he said, took advantage of the swampy nature of their base to carry out their nefarious acts. “Those vandals were responsible of the killing of nine policemen last year. They attacked the Owutu Police Station and killed several people. They also coordinated several kidnappings around Ikorodu, Epe, Ajah and Lekki areas of Lagos. They were the same boys behind the Lekki and Ikorodu bank robberies.
The list of atrocities is endless and the boys have proven to be undeterred. After each operation, they would move into the creek and take cover. The intelligence report we have received in the meantime indicated that the boys have lost a very large number of men and rifles. We were told that all the rifles they took for the last vandalisation operation were consumed in the fire. As I speak, those boys do not have the capability to coordinate any massive operation within Lagos at least for now”, he stated.