*Police recover guns in CSO’s office
02 January 2016, Lagos — Three suspected pipeline vandals arrested in Ilashe area of Ogun state last month by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit have confessed that they were hired by a Chief Security Officer at a depot in Mosimi area of Ogun state. The suspects ; Balogun Taiwo(37), Lukemon Adedigba (45) and Dayo Olanipekun (40) were alleged to have been returning from the creeks through Ilashe link , in two vehicles loaded with siphoned petroleum products belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipelines.
However, on sighting the operatives, said to have acted on tip off, the vandals scampered in different directions, abandoning the vehicles and containers loaded with petroleum product. It was gathered that while the operatives were towing the vehicles to their base , they were attacked by some armed vandals who opened fire .
A reinforcement from the Special Anti Robbery Sqaud, SARS Ogijo, reportedly saved the situation from resulting into the apparent kidnap or killing of some of the policemen. At the end of the shoot -out , three suspects were arrested, with a double barrel riffle while the rest escaped. .
During interrogation, the suspects reportedly confessed that they were allegedly hired by a CSO at the Mosimi depot (names withheld). Police sources hinted that in order to ascertain their claim, a letter was written to the NNPC to release the said CSO for interrogation . Thereafter , a warrant of arrest was reportedly obtained from the court to effect the arrest of the CSO.
However, a mild drama unfolded when the operatives arrived MOSIMI depot to effect the arrest of the CSO, following alleged stiff resistance by some staff. Sources at the IGP Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit hinted that “We went with the warrant of arrest and a search warrant to Mosimi depot. When a search was conducted at the CSO’s office, three locally made guns were recovered. When we tried to arrest him, one of the staff raised a fire alarm and all the workers assembled and barricaded all the roads, insisting that we would not take him away.
One of the officers who tried to make the exit with the three recovered riffles was held hostage and dispossessed of the guns. The workers threatened to shut the station if he was taken away. To douse the situation, we allowed him to go. Till this moment, the Corporation is yet to release the CSO for investigation”.
CSO’s appeal text to Police
While the wait for the CSO lasted, he was said to have sent an appeal text message to one of the operatives of the Unit.
Part of the text read “ Please, I beg you in the name of God ,to kindly temper justice with mercy. I made a mistake . That will never happen again. Kindly help to bail me out of this. I am very sorry. God will grant you favour in all your endeavours…”.
We were hired by CSO
However during an interview with Crime Guard the suspects denied indulging in pipeline vandalisation. Rather , they claimed to have been hired by the CSO to carry out surveillance of the area which is used as an exit route through Arepo creeks by vandals. One of them, Balogun Taiwo , who hails from Sango Otta, Ogun State told Crime Guard that “ On November 22, 2015, I was sleeping in my apartment in Shagamu, when my phone rang.
The caller was a friend named Semiu. He informed that the CSO Mosimi said we ( Lukemon, Dayo and I )should come over, that vandals were operating around the area. He said he needed us to arrest them . I woke up immediately and mounted my motorbike. I rode to a place where Dayo and Lukemon were waiting. We met Semiu at the entrance of the NNPC gate . The guards at the gate demanded to know what we were doing at that odd hour (1. 40am ) .
As we were about to explain to them that the CSO sent for us, he (CSO) appeared and directed them to give Semiu keys to their patrol vehicle. We entered the vehicle and zoomed off , leaving my motorbike in the premises. On reaching Ilara road, we saw two vehicles and two okadas (motorcycles ) approaching from the opposite direction . Suspecting they were vandals, Semiu intercepted the vehicles, shooting sporadically. This made the occupants to flee, abandoning the vehicles. We took the vehicles and okada. Semiu then called the CSO on the phone to inform him of the development.
He asked us to remain there till dawn. While we were there , we saw another vehicle moving out of the bush . We gave them a hot pursuit which caused its occupants to flee. We discovered they had loaded their abandoned vehicles with jerricans filled with petroleum products.
At about 4am, we saw another vanagon bus leaving the bush , we chased it and the occupants fled as well. As we were about calling the CSO, Anti pipeline policemen arrived the scene. They identified us as those who opened fire on them earlier. They followed us with the recovered vehicles and exhibits to the depot. When the CSO came to meet us at the gate, he directed that the recovered vehicles and petroleum products be kept in the premises. But the Police said it should be taken to the station . This led to an altercation , in the process of which the police towed two of the vehicles away and arrested us.
“We are not vandals. I have never been to the creeks before. This is the second time I am joining them for such surveillance. It was Semiu that invited me the first time. Semiu works for the CSO. He only contracted us to work for him . He has not even paid us . It was only Semiu that was armed. The rest of us were just with torch-lights”.
Lukemon and Dayo corroborated Taiwo’s claim, adding however that they were only given N1000 each before they embarked on the ill fated trip. Effort to reach Head, Public Affairs, Petroleum Product Marketing Company, PPMC Nasir Imodagbe , on the alleged indictment of the CSO failed as he requested this reporter to send him a text. But he never replied the text as at time of writing this report . Meanwhile, when contacted, the head, IGP Anti -Pipeline Vandalism Unit, Mr Valentine Olumese, a Chief Superintendent of Police , told Vanguard that the CSO was still being expected to clear himself of the allegation.
*Evelyn Usman – Vanguard