Host of young men who double as specialist vandals of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) oil pipelines met their waterloo Monday night, when a pipeline they vandalised at the Ije-Ododo area of Ijegun on the outskirts of Lagos exploded, roasting them all beyond recognition.
Speaking , residents of the area disclosed that they had been living in fear of the vandals, who are in the habit of laying siege on the community to scoop Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol.
The vandals, numbering between 25 and 30, had stormed the area that night and, as usual, started shooting into the air to announce their arrival and scare everyone in the community.
It was also learnt that in order to avoid being caught, they often entered the community through the FESTAC area of the state in canoes. This Monday, they came in three canoes loaded with cans. They must have filled some of the cans before the explosion occurred, as eye witnesses said they were roasted with the cans and the canoes.
“Suddenly, we heard a very loud bang as if a bomb had exploded. Most of us could not leave our houses while the few courageous residents of the area who were still outside at the time of the incident ran into other people's houses to save themselves from any supposed attack,” Jimoh Olatayo, a resident of the area explained on Tuesday.
“Some of us had thought that the vandals were clashing with the Police. We became suspicious when we did not hear sounds of gunshots after that, but we instead saw very bright rays from the fire that engulfed the entire place. That was when we realised that the worst had happened to them.”
At the time our correspondent got to the scene, the fire was still raging, resulting in heavy smoke. Vultures were later seen in hordes hovering above probably after any human or animal flesh they could locate and feed on .
Residents of the area had reported activities of the vandals to the Police several times, but with the refusal of the law enforcement agents to act and save the community of the danger of being burnt in the case of fire, the residents had resigned to fate.
“We also suspected connivance between the Police and these oil pipeline vandals. At a time, it was resolved that the community should stop informing the security agents so that information about us would not be divulged to the vandals,” said Adepitan Adebayo, another resident.
As at Tuesday evening, residents of the area were seen in a gathering close to the scene, discussing the explosion and blaming the security operatives for their poor response.
Those whose houses are close to the scene were seen moving their properties out, as there were no Fire Service officials in sight.
Officials of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) who were present told news men that they got wind of the incident in the night of Monday but could not come until Tuesday morning. They also said there was nothing they could do until the fire was put out.
They, however, cordoned off the area and prevented people from going close to the scene.
One of the officials, who spoke anonymously because he was not in a position to make official comments, said they had contacted NNPC and that the flow of petrol through the pipeline would be stopped for the fire to abate.
A similar incident that occurred recently in the Arepo area of Ogun State is still reported to have resulted in the shortage of fuel supply to Lagos and environs, and the vandalised pipeline area is yet to be fixed by the NNPC.
RESIDENTS of Ijeododo in Ijegun, Lagos have fled the community following a pipeline explosion and the inferno in the village, located in Ojo Local Government of the state.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipeline exploded on Monday night in the community.
As at 9.15pm on Tuesday, no casualty had been reported in the explosion said to have been caused by suspected pipeline vandals.
Our correspondent gathered the incident might worsen the fuel scarcity in the South-West as the pipeline transports petrol pumped from Atlas Cove.
The NNPC, it was learnt, had discontinued supply of petrol through the line following the explosion. The corporation pumps about 11 million litres of petrol per day through the pipeline.
News Agency of Nigeria reported that fire fighters arrived the scene four hours after the fire started but could not immediately access the area.
The spokesman of National Emergency Management Agency Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said, “We contacted the fire fighters though they could not get to the scene because of the nature of the area.
“We also contacted officials of the NNPC who have blocked all the outlets, which is why the fire is subsiding.”
Farinloye spoke as residents of Ijeododo recounted their experiences of the explosion.
Mr. Sunday Obiase, a dispatch rider, told NAN that he was in his wife’s shop when they noticed the fire.
Obiase said when the fire was noticed, people began to flee their homes as its intensity grew.
A landlord, Mr Sabinus Igbozuluke, said, “I gathered my certificates and other important belongings because the fire could get beyond control.”
According to a man, who identified himself as Baba Tunde, the vandals came through FESTAC.
“There is no road from Ijeododo to the site, everywhere is swampy, you can only pass through FESTAC which is closer,” he said.
Another landlord, Mr. Vitalis Ukewui, said such incident occurred in 2011 and left the area in darkness for over seven months.
“Last year, this same thing happened and we were left in darkness for over seven months until we paid some levy,” he said.
He expressed the fear that since the outbreak was more severe than the previous one, it could leave the whole area in darkness.
A spokesperson for the NNPC, Ms. Tumini Green, said there was still fire at the scene of the explosion. But she added that officials of the Pipelines And Products Marketing Company Limited, a subsidiary of the NNPC, were still trying to put out the fire.
She said the activities of vandals,caused the inferno.
“This had always happened, and we have PMS on the line,” she said.
The Chairman, Independent petroleum marketers Association of Nigeria, Western Zone, Mr. Olumide Ogunmade, described the incident as “a bad thing,” that would have an effect on product supply.
According to him, the Ije-Ododo axis is a route to all depots, and the explosion at the line was like cutting off the supply route from Atlas Cove.
He said, “It is serious. It is like going back to square one.
“Government needs to tackle pipeline vandalism holistically. We must not surrender to vandals.
“Government has the resources to fight this. It should set up the machinery needed.”
For allegedly trying to stop oil thieves from operating in Festac Town, last week Friday, a Festac resident identified as Bosun Aina is being detained at the Area 'E' Command, Festac Town, Lagos State.
P.M.NEWS reliably gathered from some residents that while the oil thieves were operating, Aina challenged them in a bid to stop them but the oil thieves quickly put a call through to the Area 'E' Command.
While the scuffle between Aina and the oil thieves ensued, men from the Area 'E' Command came in and whisked him away and he is still being detained.
Some of the residents, who spoke praised the effrontery of Aina but frowned at the police for detaining the patriotic citizen.
Chief Nnaemeka Asiodu, who resides very close to the scene of the incident disclosed that he heard the policemen tell Aina that why can't he mind his business.
They boasted that "Don't you know they have the backing of highly placed Nigerians and, there is nothing we can do to them. They asked Aina if he is the only resident here, and said he has to follow them to their station". Asiodu said.
Some of the residents declared further that attempts to bail Aina has been unsuccessful .
"Since Aina was arrested last Friday, we went to the police station to see how we can get him released but the police said it is the Area Commander, Donald Okoro that can only effect Aina's bail, another resident said.
A Festac resident, who was part of the team that went to secure Aina's release said it is disheartening that the officers that arrested Aina have been playing hide and seek with them, saying "Aina has been behind bars since Friday. Is it a crime to want to save lives and the oil pipeline? We are calling on the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar to look into the situation and act accordingly".
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