Sheriff Balogun and Chiemelie Ezeobi
No fewer than 20 suspected pipeline vandals were saturday burnt to death at Arepo village in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State when a ruptured Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline exploded.
The vandals were said to have gone to the area to siphon petroleum products from the ruptured NNPC pipeline.
It was gathered that the explosion was sparked off by one of the vandals who released a gunshot into the air to exert his superiority over his colleagues.
The vandals had engaged officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) guarding the area in a gun duel on Friday during which about five persons were allegedly killed.
The casualties were said have included both the vandals and guards attached to the volatile pipeline area of the state.
THISDAY learnt that the vandals had threatened to set the pipeline on fire following the loss they recorded during the fracas between them and officials of the NSCDC last Friday.
However, a press statement issued by the NSCDC Public Relations Officer, Mr. Kareem Olanrewaju, confirmed the fire incident as well as the gun duel between the officials of the Corps but was silent on the number of casualties.
To avert further disaster, the operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit, Force Headquarters Annex, Lagos, who were on patrol rushed to the scene.
THISDAY gathered that the task force arrested a medical doctor, one Dr. Odusina Adegboyega and one of the survivors identified as Sunday Reuben.
Confirming the arrest, the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the task force, Friday Ibadin, said the explosion started at about 2am on Saturday.
He said, “Shortly after the explosion, policemen led by Sector Commander, Lagos, DSP Onaghise Osayande, cordoned off the area to reduce casualties while they awaited the arrival of fire fighters to quench the fire.
“It was in the process that they stumbled into a jeep conveying one of the survivors and a medical doctor who was on his way to the hospital.
“In the course of interrogation, we discovered that the survivor was one of those who participated in the killing of those NNPC officials last year.”
“The taskforce arrested six suspected vandals who were alleged to have participated in the incident that led to the killing of three Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) staff at Arepo Village, Owode in Ogun State sometime in August, 2012.”
On the possibility of quenching the fire and rescuing the living, Ibadin said fire fighters are still on ground battling the flames.
He added that they have provided adequate security to forestall any unforeseen attack.