Abiola Odutola, Adegoke Adetoye (Akure) & Francis Sadhere (Warri)
- Royal fathers, local thugs fingered
- We’re innocent – Traditional rulers
A groundbreaking investigation by The Point may have exposed the real pipeline oil thieves in Nigeria as repentant vandals finger top community leaders and royal fathers as sponsors.
This latest twist to the oil bunkering menace puts the publicised Federal Government efforts to curb the illegal activities in jeopardy, indicating that the Federal Government may find it difficult to win this lingering war.
A resident of Arepo, an Ogun State community on the Lagos border, who pleaded anonymity, alleged that the traditional rulers and other community leaders in Arepo, were behind the menace in the area. According to the ex-convict, who quit vandalism after the July 22, 2015 pipeline fire outbreak in Arepo, the community leaders engage the vandals and collect a specific amount on every 50 litres sold in the area.
Aside from the returns, the source added that the vandals also gave the community leaders, including some security personnel, free fuel on a weekly basis. “That is when we scoop fuel from the pipelines that are buried six feet inside the Arepo River. Before the fire incident, we used to sell about 1,000 jerry cans (50 litres) every day but I am sure that must have reduced now because of the fear of President Buhari,” he disclosed.
Another vandal, who operated in the Arepo area and claimed to have stopped the illegal act, said a community leader introduced him to the business. He quoted the community leader as saying, “All your mates are working hard, but all you do is ask me for money. Go and meet (he mentioned the name); he will tell you how to make money.”
“That was how I got involved. But I stopped when I lost someone very close to me in the last explosion,” the repentant vandal, who simply identified himself as Kamoru, said.
‘WE’RE NOT INVOLVED’
But the community leaders denied any involvement in the vandalism of pipelines in the area. The leaders agreed that they were aware of the activities of the vandals but insisted that they were not part of the cartel. Olu of Arepo, Solomon Oyebi, said that the perpetrators were outsiders who knew the terrain where the pipelines were laid and that they were mostly people of the Ijaw origin, who could swim and operate far away from the community.
The traditional ruler explained that there were no vandals in Arepo and that the criminals did not live in the community. According to him, it is unfortunate that the community is close to the pipelines.
Despite the denial of the allegation by the monarch and other community leaders, some officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who spoke to The Point on the condition of anonymity, insisted that some of the community leaders could not deny their involvement in the menace.
“Some of them protect the culprits at times because they have stakes in the illegal business. How can they deny their involvement when the criminals operate in their community? Every leader is expected to know all criminals in his area like the back of his palms,” one of the NSCDC sources disclosed.
OPERATIONS IN AKOTOGBO
It is also still business as usual for the vandals in Akotogbo, Irele Local Government and Igbokoda/ Ese-Odo waterways of Ondo State, where the product is off-loaded by the vandals and disposed to their respective customers. Our correspondents found that, in Ondo State, the oil thieves were majorly young men, between the ages of 20 and 35 years, who moved around in exotic cars and lived in well-furnished mansions.
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