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Bloody day for oil bunkerers

Posted by By Chris Anucha and Toyin Osawe on 2005/04/27 | Views: 355 |

Bloody day for oil bunkerers


It was doomsday recently for oil pipeline vandals, who thought it was business as usual. A raid by security agents left 15 of them dead and three seriously wounded. The place? Okun Ilado, a suburb of Lagos.

It was doomsday recently for oil pipeline vandals, who thought it was business as usual. A raid by security agents left 15 of them dead and three seriously wounded. The place? Okun Ilado, a suburb of Lagos.

According to one of the villagers, Mr. Tokunbo Johnson, the pipeline vandals met their waterloo, April 15 when security men acting on a tip-off, started surronding their operation base. They allegedly attacked the police men, who easily over-run them. During a shoot-out that ensued, some of vandals lost their lives, while others were wounded.

Jolted villagers, who were having sound sleep before gunshots woke them up, said they never experienced such thing before, adding that it was like a war zone.

"I have a farm in the village, but I don’t stay there most of the time. I have been hearing of bunkering activities in the village , but I have never witnessed any. But on that day, at about 10.30p.m, I was outside trying to take my bath, when I heard a rumbling sound. I asked my boy what the noise was and he told me the vandals had come again. So, I ran inside and tried to reach Engr. Osiyemi of NNPC to report the incident, but his phone was switched off," one villager said.

With the belief that the vandals work with law enforcement agents, the villagers said when policemen arrived that day, they thought they had come to "settled." "But, just about five minutes later, I started hearing gun shots and the place was like a war zone. Then, I saw fire at the seaside, but of course, nobody could come outside," and villager, Mr Tokunbo Johnson said. "I met some people who came to carry one of the dead bodies. The jerry cans which the pipeline vandals brought to siphon fuel were set ablaze by the security agents," he said.

Corroborating Johnson's story, another villager, Mr. Banjo Omobuwa, said the number of the people that were killed could not be ascertained.

"That night, when we heard the noise, people took to their heels. In the morning, we saw many dead bodies floating on the river. About eight dead bodies were recovered from the river that morning. Dead bodies kept coming up from the water. Three people were seriously wounded and are still receiving treatment in the hospital," Omobuwa said.
When Daily Sun visited the village, it was virtually deserted as most villagers had fled for fear of harassment by the law enforcement agents, who accuse them of colluding with the bandits
Mr. Francis Senu, however, debunked the allegation that the villagers were involved in the illegal activities.

"These people are Ilaje people, who come from outside to carry out these operations. They usually come on Fridays with hundreds of jerry cans to siphon petroleum products. But the police keep coming to harass us, or anyone in sight. We just want to appeal to these vandals to keep away from the village as we are being punished for their sins."
Daily Sun learnt that the illegal activities are usually carried out in the night. The pipeline vandals, in what is known as ‘kegging’ in their world, usually bring thousands of 50-litre jerry cans to be filled with petroleum products.

It was further gathered that fuel so siphoned, usually fills about six to eight tankers. Indeed, the vandals, who have perfected their act have a way of connecting the pipeline with a hose in such a way that it would not cause fire or be detected by anybody. In fact, when Daily Sun visited the pipeline site, there was no indication of vandalisation . However, the palpable stench of fuel pervaded the air.

However, a villager, who pleaded anonymity, told Daily Sun that law enforcement agents are aware of what goes on there, as they often come to share from the booty.
"Police often come in the day to patrol when they know that they will not be there. The police, immigration, Navy, custom, are all involved and they turn their eyes away because they are settled," he said.

Mr. Johnson who owns the JMJ Farms on the island, however, commended the officers who caught up with the vandals and appealed to the people in the illegal business to desist from it.
"I really commend the officers who carried out the raid and we hope they will keep it up. Previously, if you call them, they would not respond. Illegal bunkering business is bad for everyone. Men have absconded from the village for fear of harassment by the law enforcement agents and everyone is living in fear. And I don’t want a situation whereby the government will wake up one day and seize the land from us."

What we have here is the investment of a lifetime. People just risk their lives collecting 1,000 or 2,000 naira depending on the part they play, while the pipeline vandals make millions at their expense. And in the process people lose their lives because, what they are doing is illegal," he said.
The residents have expressed concern that the villagers, who are mainly fishermen, are now afraid to carry out their fishing activities because the water has been polluted by dead bodies.

Meanwhile, as at the time of filing this report, a meeting convened at the instance of Mr. Johnson, with the police, NNPC officials and members of the Ilado community, was going on. According to Johnson, the meeting was aimed at finding a lasting solution to oil bunkering activities in the area.

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