By Evelyn Usman
LAGOS — Suspected leader of a pipeline vandal syndicate arrested, weekend, in Lagos, by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism, has disclosed that owners of petrol stations also patronized them.
The 52-year-old suspect identified as Kokumo Ayekede, was arrested alongside four others at 7th Avenue, Festac town, with the recovery of 270 bags of petroleum products worth over N2 million.
The suspects, according to the officer in-charge of the task force, Mr Friday Ibadin, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, allegedly broke a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Oke Agemo, Ijedodo,under Iba Local Council Development Area of Lagos State and were transporting their loot in their canoes when they were accosted around Festac creeks by the task force team led by the Lagos State Sector Commander, DSP Onaghise Osayande.
A drama, however, unfolded when Kokumo who initially claimed to be a palm wine tapper was identified by one of the arrested suspects as his boss. Again, he claimed to be a dredger who was paid to dredge holes for some vandals at the end of which he was paid N6,000 for the service. But barely had he finished when another member of the gang, James Awolowo, called him a liar.
At last, he owned up and said: “In fact, let me tell you all the truth and nothing but the truth. Several persons, including owners of petrol stations patronise us. Most of these buyers wait for us at Apapa. Each sack contains 125 litres and we sell one for N6000.
Mode of operation
“We decided to use sacks because they are easier to transport and allows for more contents than Jerry cans. Jerry cans are very difficult because of the level of water. As soon as we arrived pipeline location, with the aid of a dredger, we would open the pipe and use our valve to block it immediately. We would then run it through the hose to the water where the bags and my boys are waiting. We would then tie the bags together. For each trip, we can move at least 270 bags.
“I work for Ebi. In fact, I was forced to join after my business started experiencing shake-up. I am paid N60,000 after each trip.
“We usually don’t have problem of selling the product because buyers are always waiting for us at Apapa. Our main job is to transport the product through the river and this we do at midnight. We usually use Festac canal because it is closer. If we scale through the route, then it will be a smooth sail to Apapa.
“Most times, buyers come with their tankers and I prefer working with women because security operatives hardly catch with them.
“But business had been bad since last June because of the arrests by security operatives. And because of this, we usually carry out our operation with fear and that has been the cause of major fire outbreak in some pipelines.
My gang caused Ijedodo fire
“Last Christmas fire at Ijedodo was caused by fear. It was God that saved me. While we were leaving the site, one of the boys, Gbenga, used his lighter to cut the ropes they used to tie the sacs in the water and before we knew it,there was a blast and the rest is history.”
Please release me in the spirit of Easter
Kokumo further stated that his gang decided to operate on Easter Sunday because they felt operatives would be celebrating with their families since it was a public holiday.
He said: “We were surprised when we saw them. But all I am begging is for them to release me for the sake of the Easter, a day we are celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ who came to die for my sins and yours.”
Needed money to travel to Europe for football career
Another suspect, Eugene Stanley, blamed his indulgence on his financial incapability. Eugene who claimed to be a footballer in Bayelsa State, said he was also tempted to join in order to raise money to travel to Europe for his football career.
“I needed money to travel to Europe to play football. Kokumo told me to join them if I really needed to raise money to travel. My duty is to help tie the bags and move it to the receiver at the end of which I am paid N30,000 per trip.”
On his part, Oluwafemi Bamidele said: “I dropped out of the University of Lagos when I got the opportunity to travel to Sydney but unfortunately I was deported. I couldn’t go back to school so I learnt how to dredge sand. It was in the process that I joined them but was caught in 2011. When I was finally released, I made up my mind not to join them again.
“Since then, life has been so difficult for me. So, when Kunle, my brother, called me that there was a quick job, I decided to join him to get money to celebrate Easter. We were actually waiting for Ebi when we were apprehended,”he said.
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