By Chiemelie Ezeobi
No fewer than eight suspects were at the weekend arrested by operatives of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army for vandalising a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline at Imoro Creek, Ikorodu.
The suspects, Muftau Saliu, Segun Oladipupo, Â Akeem Adeniyi, Bukola Adepoju, Wasiu Jamiu, Abiodun Akindode, Azeez Ibrahim, Matthew Oboregbeyen, were paradedÂ by the General Officer Commanding Â (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Enobong Udo.
Udo, who was represented by the Commander, 9 Brigade, Brigadier General Â 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 jerricans 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 during the raid.
The army also raided vandalsâ€™ haven at Ilara and Imagbon areas of Ikorodu, where a wooden boat, 40 empty 50 litre jerrycans and 1,000metre-long laid hose, used for siphoning petrol were destroyed.
The GOC said: â€œThe suspected vandals are undergoing preliminary investigation after which they will be handed over to the appropriate security agency for further action.â€
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: â€œTo be honest, I was into the fuel business but I stopped three years ago. I was doing it with the Baale.Â
â€œWhen 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.
â€œThen, 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.Â
â€œThen, 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.â€
Saliu said he was arrested after soldiers saw fuel in his vehicle, adding that he usually bought 50 litres of petrol from vandals at N4,500.
Akeem claimed they apprehended him because his vehicle reeked of petrol, insisting that he had no business with pipeline vandals and was just a commercial taxi driver.