Seven months after three members of staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were murdered at Arepo village, in Ogun State, some of their alleged killers currently in police net have finally confessed why and how they executed the act.
The suspects identified as Timi Koro and Wusaina Etipiwey were arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police (IG) Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit led by Friday Ibadin, an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
The suspects were arrested at Abule Oba area of Ikorodu with some quantity of stolen petrol and a pump action rifle when they were alighting from one of the boats that ferried them across the creeks to vandalise another NNPC pipeline.
One of the suspects, Koro, who admitted being a part of a gang that specialises in pipeline vandalism, said the gun found in their possession belonged to one of their leaders and was given to him for safekeeping.
On how the NNPC staff members were killed, he said they were not the actual targets but were unfortunate to be caught in the crossfire. According to him, the actual target was an NNPC security man, popularly known as 'Dead man,' who had betrayed them.
He said: “The NNPC officials were so unfortunate. The main target was their local security man popularly known as ‘Dead Man’. We used to work in tandem with the security man but for some time, he stopped allowing us access to siphon fuel from any of the ruptured pipelines.
“After debating amongst our gang members, we resolved that we had to be on the offensive. Our resolve was strengthened when security officers started arresting our people.
“With that unwelcome development, we believed that Dead Man was the one that was giving them information about our operations in Abule Oba and so we decided to eliminate him before he could jeopardise our operations.
“It was unfortunate that on the day we planned the job, the NNPC officials were there. They left us with no option but to kill and bury them. No matter how mean we may be, we do not kill innocent people. Our only enemies are security officers who dare to stop us. Most of them that co-operate are our friends.”
On why he joined the illicit trade, he said he only joined two years ago when his timber business was failing.
“In Abule Oba and Konu axis of Ikorodu area, pipeline vandalism is the main source of making money. We have a strong union in that area and I am yet to be included because of the amount involved,” he added.
Koro said they vandalised pipelines at least four times a week depending on the demands in the market.
According to him, they have already marked the different spot that were ruptured and sealed up at the end of each day’s work and with the aid of a long pipe and their own pumping machine, petrol is siphoned into gallons inside the water.
He added that he was not a major player but was an ally of one of the kingpins called Igbekorowa whom he claimed later betrayed him.
He said: “At the end of each trip, he would pay me commission depending on the number of gallons that I transport to land safely. Assuming I was able to deliver 300 litres, he would pay me N50,000; this is so because I am not a member of their union.
“They own different types of cars, built houses within Ikorodu and most of their buyers are owners of petrol stations. The masterminds of our gang are the major players and they live in Ikorodu.”
Koro, who is angry about his alleged betrayal, said he would personally hand over two of their gang leaders, Igbekorowa and Toyko, if he knows their whereabouts.
He said: “If security men can arrest Igbekorowa and Tokyo, then the business will stop.
“If I have an idea of where they are, I would personally hand them over to the police. They betrayed some of us because we have a strong intelligence group whose duty is to monitor all the security officers that were assigned to hack us down.
“We also have our patrol team that move with us during every operation. The nine-man team moves with all kinds of guns, including grenade and no one can stop them unless they catch Igbekorowa. Tokyo was involved in the last explosion and is currently in Ondo where he is receiving treatment. We are just the boys; the main vandals are out there.”
For 27-year-old Etipiwey, hunger drove him back to pipeline vandalism.
He said: “I was lucky to have survived the blast that happened last year. I had sworn to myself that I would not join them again but when there was no other source of livelihood, I had no choice but to call Tokyo who allowed me to join them.
“I do not know how Igbekorowa gets information that security men are close by. If the pressure were much, he would lure some of us who are not part of the union to a point where the police would arrest us. We are just the boys that do help them to transport the product from the river to the land.”
Confirming the arrests, Ibadin said a manhunt was still on for the remaining vandals, especially Igbekorowa and Tokyo.
He said: “We are gradually closing in on the notorious Igbekorowa and Tokyo who led the suspected vandals that murdered the NNPC officials last year.
“To effect these arrests, we acted on a tip-off we got during the course of our investigation which revealed that the suspects were on their way back from the creeks.
“Policemen led by Sector Commander, Lagos, DSP Onaghise Osayande, laid ambush and got the two of them arrested while the rest fled on spotting the police. The task force would richly reward anyone with useful information as to the whereabouts of Igbekorowa and Tokyo.”