Published on January 28, 2013 by pmnews · No Comments
On Wednesday, 23 January, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s strategic System 2B pipeline located at Arepo, Ogun State, exploded again and went up in flames. That was about 14 days after a similar tragedy led to the death of 15 suspected oil thieves. Worse still, that was the fourth time this would happen in that environment since September 2012. Each time this occurs, it adversely disrupts the supply of petroleum products to other parts of the country.
To forestall this incessant economic sabotage, there should be inter-agency synergy and sophisticated ways of tackling the problem. There should be a better way of preventing oil theft and safeguarding the pipelines in that area. In other words, the problem of the crude equipment used in patrolling the affected areas should be addressed by the federal government.
There are conflicting accounts on the cause of the recent inferno. According to a newspaper report, it was caused by exchange of gunfire between some oil thieves and some personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDF. Mr. Oladapo Jacob, assistant commandant general, NSCDC South-West zone, was quoted as saying that “Our men have been here day and night since last December incident. Unfortunately, we were surprised this morning when we heard the people were here at about 3.30 a.m. About that time, our men heard a gunshot from the pipeline area. They decided to go there to know what was happening. By the time our men got there, the vandals engaged our men in a gun duel. They later fled into the water. The immediate result was the fire.”
If Jacob’s allegation that some residents were working in cahoots with the vandals is anything to go by, then the Ogun State Government and the state police commissioner should hold a meeting with the traditional ruler of the area to address this problem once and for all. These are influential individuals at the grassroots level who know how to put their subjects under tight reins.
The concerned authorities must take this further by holding a town hall meeting with residents of the area on the need to cooperate with the government on securing the pipelines. It goes without saying that people who vandalise the pipelines live in the surrounding villages and they know the terrain very well.
Government should also provide patrol boats for the Civil Defence Corps. A situation where they patrol the area in local canoes while the oil vandals escape in canoes with Yamaha outboard engines does not speak well of the government’s readiness to deal decisively with the problem.
Since there are so many exit points at Arepo, Majidun and Ogolonto from where the vandals jump into the river, the federal government should look into the possibility of constructing a bridge to connect those points for better surveillance and security. Beyond building a bridge, the notoriety of the area now requires regular patrols by helicopters and, if possible, enlist the support of local whistle blowers to alert the security agencies of the presence of the oil thieves whenever they show up for their nefarious activity.