By Chiemelie Ezeobi

A gang of pipeline vandals at the weekend evaded arrest when they jumped ship when personnel of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Beecroft, stormed the notorious hideout of the vandals at Atlas Cove.

Although all the seven suspects successfully escaped, the naval operatives however impounded their wooden boat and recovered 27 jerry cans loaded with stolen petroleum products.

The vandals who were heading to an unknown destination in their boat had on sighting the navy, turned and headed for the shore before they jumped into the water to escape.

Led by NNS Beecroft Commander, Commodore Abraham Adaji, the operatives also carried out operations at Ilado, Akaraba, Robot, Ilashe and Abule Glass villages, between Takwa Bay and Badagry creeks.

Adaji who reiterated the navy’s determination to rid the nation’s waterways of oil thieves and vandals, said all measures were being explored to ensure the end of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.

‘’One of the measures the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is also exploring is partnership with local authorities that are closest to where these assets are and it is in that sense that we have the men of the Kings Guard.

‘’They are men who have root in the community, who lives in the area, so they will be the first to know if anything is going on.

‘’These men have just been brought onboard to work with other security agencies mainly to provide intelligence and presence which have very significant deterrence value.

‘’You can see that when we got there, they submitted to our control and direction so they have been very organised and disciplined.

‘’As a formal security agency, we take a lot of processing when we talk of arrest particularly when it emanates from the men of the kings guard. It is not everything that they bring up that we consider as arrest.

‘’For us to prosecute, we must present evidence and that will include the offence that was committed, the persons involved and the instruments of that crime and possibly other witnesses who may have observed.

‘’If in the course of our interaction, we cannot provide any of these elements, we do not go ahead and just take people for the sake of recording the number of people arrested. But indeed we have worked together and made arrest,” NNS Beecroft Commander stated.

According to him, ‘’We have handed over some people for prosecution and the processes are ongoing at the appropriate government agencies.

‘’Today, we went on land but you will recognise that that land is not the primary area of the navy. So, we do patrol at sea predominantly but that does not mean we will be oblivious of what is going on on land.

‘’That is why we go there also, because at the end of the day, some of the activities end up being transported on water. So, we are interested to know the source of the activities that spill to some of the crimes that we see on water.”

Warning perpetrators to seek legitimate means of livelihood, Adaji said the navy is always ready to fight pipeline vandalism and oil theft in line with the zero tolerance agenda for maritime offences of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas.