Operatives of the 81 Division, Nigerian Army have arrested eight suspected pipeline vandals at Imoro Creek, Ikorodu in Lagos.
The suspects, Muftau Saliu, Segun Oladipupo, Akeem Adeniyi, Bukola Adepoju, Wasiu Jamiu, Abiodun Akindode, Azeez Ibrahim, Matthew Oboregbeyen, who were arrested on April 17, were paraded on Saturday by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Maj.-Gen. Enobong Udo.
According to Udo, the army discovered sabotage points along the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline including a loading area in the creek where products were siphoned.
He said the army recovered 10 vehicles, comprising seven saloon cars, two wagons and a J5 bus, 31 jerrycans 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 vandals’ haven at Ilara and Imagbon areas of Ikorodu, where a wooden boat, 40 empty 50 litre jerrycans and 1000 metres-long laid hose, used for siphoning petrol were destroyed.
“The suspected vandals are undergoing preliminary investigation after which they will be handed over to the appropriate security agency for further action,” said Udo, who was represented by the Commander, 9 Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Moundhey Ali.
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.