By Chiemelie Ezeobi
Following the recent resurgence of militancy in the creeks in Lagos and Ogun States, the military at the weekend said it was set to take them on, having taken to kidnapping as a means of sustenance.
The Operation Awatse Task Force had in the past three months invaded the creeks of Arepo, Ishawo, Awawa and several other creeks, dislodging pipeline vandals.
With their means of livelihood cut off, the dislodged group bid its time for the heat to die down before they went back to the same creeks, but this time took to kidnapping.
On a visit to the creeks over the weekend, the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, said although the security forces were aware that the militants had returned, they were set to take them on.
He said: “We are aware that the militants are returning and we are ready to take them on. Very soon, petroleum products would be pumped from Atlas Cove to Mosimi.
“That would pose a new challenge for us because when we embarked on this operation, at that time petroleum products were not being pumped and some of them who were out of business started kidnapping.
“We are going to come in massively to ensure these miscreants are kept at bay. We are aware that some of the gas stations patronise these vandals and we have recommended to the government that the appropriate agency should deal with those filling stations.”
Speaking on the jerry cans recovered from the creeks that he inspected, Bobai said as of last week Friday, 53,000 kegs of 50 litres were recovered from creeks around Ishawo.
He said it was made possible by the Lagos State Government through the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) because it provided swamp buggies to clear the creeks to enable LASEMA pull out the jerry cans.
He said: “As you saw when we got here, there were about three or four waves of jerry cans coming in under the protection of the army, navy and other security forces.
“There are a lot of jerry cans all over the place. Aside the jerry cans, we arrested so many of the miscreants and handed them over to the DSS.
“You can see the line up of jerry cans here. If you begin to talk about 53,000 kegs by 50 litres by 145 by the 20 years they have been thriving in the business, that’s a lot of money.
“So we have done our own and would continue to do our best. What we have recommended is that the appropriate agency should go after these filling stations.”
On the role of the community, he said LASEMA was already partnering with the locals, given that the militants had subdued the community before the military intervention.
He said: “A lot of people ran out of here because the community was harassed. It was only after our operations that people started coming back.
“As a military officer, I was instructed by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin to remove the shanties and dislodge the miscreants, which we have done and handed over to LASEMA.
“Honestly, LASEMA has not been asleep in the last two months. With the swamp buggies provided by the governor, they have been working here day and night to mop up the jerry cans and other items the vandals left here. We are just supporting LASEMA to ensure that they clean up the area.”
LASEMA General Manager, Adeniyi Tiamiyu, also said: “We would dispose of the jerry cans for recycling. It would be dangerous and unethical to burn them around here.
“So we have been given the mandate to take them out of here, which is what we would do. We would sell them to recycling companies. The jerry cans are empty.
“We are moving them out. Our concern is to bring out all the remnants of their equipment inside the creeks.
“I have gone into the creeks for three hours and I have observed that there are quite a lot of jerry cans still scattered across the place, all stringed together. So we have an assignment to do and we have to do it.
“We do not completely know the terrain, so we engage the locals. Quite a lot of them are inside the creeks and everyday they bring out kegs and we puncture them.
“As a government, we would ensure the vandals don’t return. I am sure the military won’t leave this place until they are sure the vandals don’t return.”
Meanwhile, plans are underway to erect bridges, as the community has requested a link bridge to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and for the state to open up the waterways to marine activities.