Chiemelie Ezeobi investigated the incessant pipelines vandalism in FESTAC Town, Lagos and reports that the police provide cover for the illegal operation of miscreants
At 7th Avenue in FESTAC Town, when night falls there is palpable fear. The people have lived with this fear for some years, but those they look up to for a relief, the police have failed them.
THISDAY investigation shows that organised oil theft goes on around the neighbourhood on a daily basis, with the police in that area providing support for the illegal operations.
According to investigation, the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) posted to the area are often transferred after a few months to ensure everyone has access to the shared proceeds of the organised illicit trade in the area that has become a source of extra income for the police.
A source close to the police says, "FESTAC Town is a cocoa farm."
While speaking to THISDAY on strict condition of anonymity, a pipeline vandal revealed the modus operandi of their illegal act at the FESTAC creek. He said, "We usually carry out our operations between 1-3am and we are always accompanied on the journey by policemen who provide us with protection. It was a joint collaboration between the police, the vandals and some officials of Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC). It is so amicably organised that there is no quarrel as everyone gets what is due to them and on time too.
"On the agreed days, the PPMC officials unplug the particular pipeline in the dead of the night or morning and then connect the pipeline to the hose which we have already put in place. So the products are diverted to our hose which runs over 7km to the collection base far away from where it's connected to the pipeline so that we are not seen standing by the pipelines.
"The hose is buried underground near the canal and that is why several inspections carried out in that area never uncovers it. After 7km's from the point of connection to the pipeline, the hose resurfaces at the collection base where a huge container is mounted. It's from there the products are poured into our Jerry cans and then tied together with chains.
"The Jerry cans are then pushed into the canal and one person drags it across the river to the other side where the police are stationed. To keep safe and to ensure our operation is not known, the people that usually buy the products from us are also on standby and they cart it away in their trucks with police escort."
He disclosed further that the illegal operation has been on for six years and that every area commander posted to the area knows it as a viable source of income worth protecting. He claimed each area commander receives about N250, 000 every week amounting to N1 million per month.
THISDAY checks revealed that the deal was once leaked and some policemen from the State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, stormed the creeks and arrested some of the vandals but they were later released.
"When the vandals were arrested, the FESTAC policemen were angry and shot the tyres of the vehicles that brought detectives from Panti to stop them from arresting the vandals, but the vandals were still arrested and taken away, " a police source confirmed. "To release the vandals and prevent them from mentioning FESTAC police as accomplice, the police convinced vandals in the ring that were not arrested to contribute money to secure the release of their colleagues. Some paid N100, 000 while others paid N50, 000 with the promise from FESTAC police Chief to refund, but the refund was never made."
THISDAY sought the opinion of some of the residents at 7th Avenue who stand a greater risk if an explosion occurs and they confirmed that, "the police in the area have sold their conscience and have long ago abdicated their responsibilities."
Their fears are not unfounded as the sabotaging act of the pipeline vandals had recently caused an explosion in the area that would have been disastrous but for the timely intervention of the emergency services.
Residents say they heaved a sigh of relief when the vandals were raided recently at the site by security operatives. THISDAY gathered that after the raid, the vandals kept away for three weeks. Some of the vandals according to sources in the area engaged operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in a gun duel at the FESTAC area. Although the vandals succeeded in escaping, about 10,000 Litres of PMS were recovered.
According to one of the residents, the vandals only thrive because they have the backing of security agencies especially the police. He said, "although I was not around when some of the vandals were arrested recently but I heard there was a cleanup. That alone was surprising because they usually come to vandalise with policemen as escorts.
"There is a pipeline across the river and they have destroyed the water with their vandalism. Before, some people used the water but that has stopped now. It has affected so many wells in the area."
Asked on the alleged connivance of police he said, "the police are not intimidating us because we keep our cool and turn the other way. Since the police who are supposed to protect us are working in tandem with them, what do you want us to do?
"The policemen come heavily armed but I cannot say if they are from the FESTAC Division. We moved in here about two years ago and met the situation on the ground. We are calling on the government to intervene.
"We are concerned because fire outbreak could occur in this area because the products have spilled all over the water. We are even scared to burn anything outside now for fear of an explosion."
And while residents in FESTAC Town are calling for investigation into the police accomplice in pipeline vandalisation and organised oil theft in Lagos, the residents of Arepo community in Ogun State are no better. They face the same challenge and perhaps worse fate.
One of the residents of Arepo who spoke to THISDAY on strict conditions of anonymity said they have had to live with their fate because those that should be protecting them would rather connive with the vandals.
The claims of the residents was recently confirmed when the special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism led by ACP Friday Ibadin, arrested two suspects, Timi Koro and Wusaina Etipiewey who confessed that they got away with their act because of their relationship with the security personnel.
Similar oil theft in Arepo and FESTAC Town residents was witnessed about two years ago by the residents of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA)'s Diamond Estate, Idimu area of Lagos State. The residents were faced with incessant pipeline explosions until they drew government's attention to their situation.
According to the then welfare officer of the Estate, asides the environmental hazards the incident posed on their lives, they were threatened by policemen attached to the Idimu Police Station for daring to speak out.
When contacted by THISDAY to react to the allegations, the Area E Commander, Dan Okoro, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, said there was no iota of truth in the claims. He said, "who are the police officers and who made the allegations. These are general statements. Are you aware that the place is being manned by the Civil Defence?
"There is no pipeline that crosses into 7th Avenue. The information is incorrect. You should go there yourself to see things for yourself so you can get it right. Did you see any pipeline there? What you will see there is a swamp. Where the pipelines are is in a very far distance and that was where the last fire occurred.
"So if anyone says that the police, army or immigration are doing anything, find out whether there is any reality to it. It cannot happen in my command. If the police man is found in the act, if they get involved, they pay for it."
When THISDAY also brought up the allegations that some police officers attached to his division were arrested by SCID operatives and later released, Okoro said, "You better go and find out from there? Which year? Nothing like that ever happened here. You better go and find out."
Also when contacted, the Commandant, Nigerian Civil Defence and Security Corps (NCDSC), Mr. Shem Obafaiye could not confirm nor debunk the claims. He however said he was in a meeting and asked THISDAY to come to his office for further talk.
Still on the incessant pipeline vandalism, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2 which comprises Lagos and Ogun States, Mr. Mamman Tsafe, when asked by THISDAY to react on the allegation that the police and other security agencies were working in tandem with pipeline vandals, said, "the special task force set up by the IG was to curb the malaise."
He said, "recently, the IG inaugurated a squad under the leadership of Assistant Commissioner of Police, Friday Ibadin, to checkmate the activities of the pipeline vandals as well as ensure accountability by security agencies.
"The IG screened members of the team personally and handed them over to an officer whose integrity I cannot doubt. There has therefore, been effective coverage and the result of his action are there in several publications to show."
According to a recent estimates by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) as much as 180,000 barrels of oil per day are lost to oil theft.
In celebration of Black History Month, the U.S. Consulate General has partnered THISDAY to showcase a daily note entitled This Day in Black History. The note commemorates prominent black figures and recounts historic events in African American History that have contributed to American progress. The theme of this year's national black history month as announced by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. Read below to learn what historic event happened today in African American history.
February 25: On this day in 1870- First Black U.S. Senator, Hiram R. Revels Takes Oath of Office!
Hiram R. Revels comes from a mixed-race heritage-Revels's father was mixed-race and his mother was Caucasian. Born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1827, Revels was both well-traveled and well-educated. He attended schools in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, was ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Maryland, and conducted religious work in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. Revels also served as a chaplain during the Civil War.
In 1869, after the war, Revels was elected to represent Adams County in the Mississippi State Senate. In January 1870, Revels gave the opening prayer in the state legislature. The prayer was powerful and left a lasting impression on those who heard it, leading to Revels being elected by the legislature to the U.S. Senate the next month by a vote of 81 to 15.
Revels's path to the U.S. Senate was not without its hurdles, however. Citing the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, conservative Southern Democrats officially challenged Revels's credentials on the grounds that he was not a U.S. citizen for the requisite period of time (nine years), and therefore was not eligible to hold office. Although the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all African Americans, the amendment was only adopted two years prior in 1868. Revels, his opponents claimed, had only been a U.S. citizen for two years, when election to the Senate required nine years prior citizenship; therefore, Revels was ineligible to hold such office.
Revels's supporters successfully argued that he had been a citizen for his entire life since Revels was not of pure African ancestry, the Dred Scott decision did not apply to him. The state legislature voted to approve Revels's admission 48 to 8.