No fewer than eight suspects have been arrested by operatives of the 81 Division, Nigerian Army, for vandalising a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline at Imoro Creek, Ikorodu, Lagos.
The suspects, Muftau Saliu, Segun Oladipupo, Akeem Adeniyi, Bukola Adepoju, Wasiu Jamiu, Abiodun Akindode, Azeez Ibrahim, Matthew Oboregbeyen, were paraded yesterday by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Maj.-Gen. Enobong Udo.
Udo, who was represented by the Commander, 9 Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Moundhey Ali, said the army discovered sabotage points along the NNPC pipeline, including a loading area in the creek where products were siphoned.
He said the army also recovered 10 vehicles, comprising seven saloon cars, two wagons and a J5 bus, 31 jerry-cans laden with refined petroleum products, 1,397 empty kegs, three coolers, nine mobile phones and substances suspected to be hard drugs.
Of the 1,397 kegs, Udo said 1,320 were discovered separately and destroyed insitu during the raid.
The army also raided vandals’ haven at Ilara and Imagbon areas of Ikorodu, where a wooden boat, 40 empty 50-litre jerry-cans and 1000metre-long laid hose, used for siphoning petrol were destroyed.
The GOC said, “The suspected vandals are undergoing preliminary investigation after which they will be handed over to the appropriate security agency for further action.”
However, the suspects denied being vandals, with most of them insisting they were innocent.
Oboregbeyen said he stopped the business three years ago when a crisis broke out in the creek, insisting he had since started a legitimate livelihood.
He accused a Baale of masterminding his arrest, adding that the Baale had threatened him a few days before soldiers came to pick him up.
Oboregbeyen said: “To be honest, I was into the fuel business but I stopped three years ago. I was doing it with the Baale.
“When I stopped, I started riding motorcycle and also doing bricklaying job. What happened was that the Baale went and sold a portion of my land and I challenged him for that.
“Then, I had issues with my wife and he wanted to meddle but I told him to mind his business. He then told me that he is going to put me where I will not return.
“Then, two days after, soldiers came and arrested me. They went to my house, searched it but they did not find any fuel or anything. They asked me where I kept fuel, I told them I do not know what they were talking about. That was how I was brought here.”
Saliu said he was arrested after soldiers saw fuel in his vehicle, adding that he usually bought 50 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from vandals at N4,500.
Akeem claimed they apprehended him because his vehicle reeked of PMS, insisting that he had no business with pipeline vandals and was just a commercial taxi driver.
The Nigerian Army also arrested 23 suspected cultists, who were conducting physical training for new recruits and initiation and involved in robbery and kidnapping.
The GOC, 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, represented by the Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. Moundhey Ali, disclosed this at a news conference at the 174 Battalion, Ikorodu area of Lagos on Saturday.
The GOC, who said the suspects were arrested at different times and locations, explained that the arrests were a result of intensive surveillance and intelligence report.
â€œIn continuation of the crackdown on criminal elements and cultists in and around Lagos and Ogun states, the troops of 81 Division arrested 23 suspected cultists in Ikorodu area on April 16.
â€œOver 50 suspected cultists from â€œEiyeâ€ confraternity were conducting physical training for new recruits, initiation and planning for robbery and kidnap activities.
â€œTheir arrest was preceded by a shootout between the troops of 174 Battalion Ikorodu and the cultists after which, 23 of the suspected cultists were arrested while others escaped,â€™â€™ he said.
The GOC said two of the suspects sustained gunshot wounds, adding that one of the suspected newly-recruited cultists died as a result of injuries inflicted on him during the cult initiation.
â€œHowever, one of our gallant soldiers, while combating the cultists sustained a gunshot wound on his left leg during the encounter and was immediately evacuated. The soldier and the 2 wounded cultists are receiving treatment at the Battalionâ€™s Medical Reception Station.
â€œItems recovered from the suspects include one locally-made double barrel pistol, five live cartridges, five machetes, four jack knives, two table knives, three locally-fabricated axes with nail like edges and five mobile phones.
â€œAlso recovered from them are one parcel containing substance suspected to be Indian hemp. Others are two ATM cards, eight identity cards, nine passport photographs, packets of condom, rings and a variety of charms,â€™â€™ he said.
Udoh expressed appreciation to the general public and particularly the people of Lagos and Ogun states for their continuous cooperation. He urged them to always give timely information that would help the Division in its operations.
He pledged not to relent until the Area of Responsibility of the division was completely rid of all forms of cultism, vandalism and other violent criminal activities and elements.
â€œThe suspects are undergoing preliminary investigation after which they will be handed over to the appropriate security agencies for further investigations and prosecution,â€ he said.