Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Anti-Pipeline Vandalization, Friday Toyin Ibadin, over the week, came out spitting fire. He disclosed that Police task force on anti-vandalism which he heads was all out to wield the big stick in tracking pipeline vandals all over the country vowing that 'enough was enough'.
He said his main target were big companies that adulterated petroleum and other products both in the creeks and around channels of oil pipelines that dot the country stating, that their time was up. He spoke with our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie, at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. Excerpts:
What anti-vandalism is all about
It is a negation of vandalism. That is everything that has to do with vandalization, we are against it especially public utilities such as oil pipeline, telephone, NEPA transformers, Post and Telecom, Telephone cables etc. We are a squad mandated to handle such responsibilities in the country.
We have done a lot in terms of arrests, investigation and prosecution of pipeline vandals especially, the oil pipelines, in some instances, though not very rampant, vandalisation of NEPA transformers and cables because of the economic gains. Most of the cases are in the Federal High Court because it is the only court that has jurisdiction to try such cases.
Trend of cases
We have tried and charged over 20 such cases in the past three months to court across the country. We have cases in Kaduna, Asaba, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Lagos, Lokoja etc. In fact, we have challenges in every part of the country especially in those areas where we have NNPC channels. Such areas are really prone to pipeline vandalism.
Security is evolving. The logistics is not enough. We always call for more to achieve positive results. However, we are making good and efficient use of the limited ones we have. The Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar places priority attention to this canker-worm that is plaguing our society and he directed us to go all out to achieve results. In the same vein, he has been giving us maximum support and attention.
Breakthrough at Ibafo What happened was that on the 6th of September, some management staff of NNPC were detailed to go and effect repairs on the pipeline at Arekpo, a boundary town between Ogun and Lagos States. At that place, the major movement of petroleum products was having problem.
Incidentally, the place is not motorable, it is swampy and a very difficult terrain because of river Arekpo. In the process of effecting the repairs, some vandals who do not want that place repaired because of what they make out of the spillage attacked and killed five of them.
They later buried them in shallow graves inside the swampy area of the forest which is very difficult to penetrate. When we were invited, everybody was scared to go ahead with the maintenance of the broken pipelines. Everybody was afraid. I personally led a team to fish out the bodies inside the swampy creeks.
We carried out intensive patrol using even helicopters and all that. After some days of intensive search and thorough patrol, we were able to discover the shallow graves where the vandals buried the NNPC staff. We had to bring in Pathologists to do the exhumation after which we took the bodies to the hospital in Abeokuta where autopsy was carried out.
Right now, we are carrying out DNA tests. Some of the corpses were identified because their dresses and personal effects were seen. We are also trying to reach out to the families because you cannot do the DNA without them and they have been responding. We have arrested two suspects and we have authentic evidence pointing to the fact that they were behind the killing. We have filed our suit and the date for trial will be known soon.
Other successes recorded
We have recovered about 17 trucks on the line along Okene and Adogo where some group of vandals from different places came to vandalize pipelines. We found the trucks loading petrol and some crude oil and we made an arrest and as I speak with you, the case is in Lokoja Federal High Court.
We had another arrest of some trucks in Lagos. They were coming from Auchi with oil to sell to some of these well known companies. These companies find it cheap and convenient to power their generating sets since the Power Holding Company and Nigeria, PHCN, has failed in supplying power and this made us to tighten our searchlights on most of these companies whenever these trucks are coming to sell oils to them and we arrest them.
How we succeeded in spite of shortage of logistics
We collaborate with the communities where these crimes are carried out. No matter how tiny their information is, my numbers are everywhere for people to call and give us vital information and when an information is given to us,we accept them and work things out. Our telephones are open. We try to find out if they are false or real,we try our best to work things out with the information.
Role of big companies and the way out
There is a law against adulteration and it is backed with 14 years imprisonment with hard labor without an option of fine. If you adulterate anything food, petroleum, whatsoever, you will be tried under federal high court.
Since there is scarcity in these products, people tend to use anything available. kerosine somethings get cheaper than petrol and when such happens, people try to maximize the quality of AGO and they will buy few quantity of AGO and large quantity of kerosine and mix them together and when a consumer who is not careful will buy the adulterated petrol, that will get their engines knocked.
These are one of the major problems we are fighting against. We advise these companies to desist from getting involved in such illegal activities because we are poised to cleanse the rot in the system no matter whose ox is gored.
Panacea to vandalization in the country
We should make use of youth empowerment programme to fight against vandalism, and Nigerians should appeal to most of these big oil companies so as to create awareness because vandalism is creating big problems in our economy. It is also to the detriment of our lives and properties because during the process of vandalisation, the unlucky vandals may be set ablaze by fire and thousands of people might be caught up by these accidents.
We are all aware of the Abule Agba fire break, Ilaje/Ijegun disaster and many others in which so many youths lost their lives. We all know that these are Federal Government's utilities that we are meant to preserve for the future, we all will gain from it, because it will benefit all of us if well preserved but these vandals will go and drill it and leave it open and it becomes a great loss for the government. We all suffer both ways. Both from the stolen ones and the one still underground.
Advice to Nigerians
Pipeline vandalism is a crime and the offense is stringent. Nigerians should imbibe the spirit of Godliness and also be contented with what they have and when this is done, you will witness the abatement of criminality in terms of pipeline vandalisation and the youths should look for something lucrative to do, so many believe that it is only through pipeline vandalism they will be rich. I say it is not true.
Support from Police Management team
One of our greatest motivating factors is the massive support we get from the Inspector-General of Police and his Management team. He has encouraged us to work harder and go extra miles towards achieving results. In fact, he has been our major driving force.