Beecroft, an operations base of the Western Naval Command, Apapa, Lagos, which covers the sea and coastal areas from the Nigeria/Benin border at Long 002o 49’ E to Long 006o E in Delta State from the Nigerian coastline to the limit of the nation’s Economic Exclusive Zone, was taken beyond the waters, penultimate Wednedssay.
The operation which was witnessed by journalists was carried right in the den of vandals in communities such as Akalaba, Abagbo, Corner loss, Ati-Alashe Ilado-Odo , Faji Island, Atlas Cove, all in Lagos State.
An astonishing discovery was made during the raid around the secured mooring buoy, off the Lagos encourage, as operatives set out around 2 am for their routine patrol.
While Nigerians were deep asleep in their respective homes, some unscrupulous individuals were engaged in illegal activities around the mooring buoy.
During the raid, the eagle-eye operatives were attracted to a pipe that was connected to the hose, receiving import product for supply to the ATLAS Cove. As a matter of necessity , they approached the point to investigate the situation, only to stumble on an ongoing surreptitious activity.
The first thing that caught their attention was the speed at which a small speed boat left the location. But as it sped off, a pipeline dropped from it. The operatives took the pipe, followed its line , only to discover again that it was connected to wooden boat that was stationed about 120 meters away from the mooring point.
Ordinarily, no one suspected any clandestine action , as there was nobody at the mooring point but, a hose that was laid under the water. In the operatives’ bid to satisfy their curiosity and ascertain what a fishing boat was doing around that area, another startling discovery was made.
Right inside the wooden boat were 235 drums of 250 litres capacity.
Thirty-two of the drums were filled with Premium Auto Spirit ,PMS. Consequently, the wooden boat and the drums were towed to the base. Simple but sophisticated technology .
Commenting on the recovery, the Commander, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Abraham Adaji stated that the technology used by the hoodlums was simple but sophisticated .
“This is so because the pipe of about 68 boat inches connected for supply and there is an adaptor that links five other smaller badges of about 3-4 inches. It was those smaller badges that fill into these drums.
So, as the main supply comes, it flows into the pipes, so at a time they can fill five drums sequentially like that because of the high pressure on the systems. In no distance time they would have filled the entire drums in the boats and speed off.”
Next day, the operation took a different dimension. This time around, it was carried out with operatives of the Nigerian Security Civil Defense Corps, who are also charged with the responsibility of protecting pipelines across the nations.
The operatives with journalists set sail from the Western Naval Command jetty in over four boats ,with Commodore Adaji personally steering one of the ships. Race for life
The first port of call was the Atlas Cove. But there was no sight of any boat let alone illegal activities. However, when operatives proceeded to the Ilado-Odo creeks, a speed boat coming from the opposite direction made a sudden u-turn on sighting the naval ships and increased its pace.
It landed abruptly by the sea shore and without waiting to berth the ship, its occupants numbering about four, jumped out and ran into some abandoned uncompleted buildings by the river bank.
Apprehension fo attack
At this point, apprehension set in, particularly in the minds of the ‘civilian’ journalists . But the readiness of the heavily armed operatives allayed fears, as they (operatives ) became more conscious and positioned themselves strategically , in readiness for any likely ambush by reinforced vandals. But that was not to be Some drums filled with petroleum products were recovered from the abandoned boat.
From all indication, it was obvious that the fleeing persons were vandals, suspected to be coming from where they had gone to siphon product.
Next was Faji Island, which oversees a mooring buoy where ships loaded with petroleum products wait for clearance before sailing into the Lagos ports. Surprisingly, there were fresh traces of heavy duty tyres on the sandy shore, indicating suspected illegal activities in the area.
Crime Guard reliably gathered that the Island was usually a beehive of activities at night , as trucks converged there to convey siphoned petroleum products to different parts of the country.
To assert this claim, over 10,000 empty jerrycans of different sizes and colours with different inscriptions such as MP3, MT, MTN, MIMO, NX, ELF,AWE, CM, MC, etc on them, were sighted at different locations in the Island, including hoses .
From all indications, it was obvious that the nefarious activities could not be unconnected with illegal maritime activities.
After taking a long walk at the sandy Island, some men with reflective jackets on which was inscribed ‘King Lion boys’, with an emblem of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, were sighted coming out from nowhere and armed with cutlasses.
At the back of the reflective jacket was inscribed; OPC , a baffling discovery since the contract of surveillance of pipeline that was awarded to the Gani Adams faction of OPC by the immediate past administration had been revoked by the present administration.
However, a member of the group who claimed to be working for the NNPC, said they also complemented efforts of security agents by policing pipelines along the stretch.
Thereafter, operatives proceeded to other Islands such Akalaba, Abagbo, Corner loss, Ati-Alashe, on foot. Although a vehicle was brought to convey the operatives round the island, unfortunately, one of its tyres burst just when the journey was about to begin.
Determined to finish the task , indefatigable Commodore Adaji led operatives including ‘ ‘civilian’ journalists on an endless walk round the Islands. Abandoned houses and piles of jerrycans were sighted at almost every corner.
Dead silence pervaded the island. But for the presence of the armed operatives, the fate of any stranger at such deserted island could best be imagined. Surprisingly, it was discovered that some prominent Nigerians including politicians , businessmen and religious leaders own some of the massive structures on these Islands where vandalism strives.
Destruction of 20,000 jerrycans
In one of the communities, over 20,000 jerrycans said to have been seized from vandals were seen.Commodore Adaji immediately ordered that they be pierced in order to render them useless. Some dug pipelines were also sighted at different spots .
As expected, the vandals some of whom Crime Guard learnt live in the communities, went into hiding, while other villagers who were shocked at the presence of security men within their vicinity carried on with their activities without blinking an eye lid. But the expression on their faces, was that of fear .
Even when approached, none of them was bold to expose activities of vandals openly to journalists, apparently out of fear of a possible attack.
Our challenge – private guards
A guide who identified himself as General Commander, King Lion boys, Aminu Amusa , disclosed that they had made several arrest of vandals and handed them to the appropriate security agencies. He however, lamented that most times, vandals stormed the Island armed with sophisticated weapons such as guns.
According to him “ If you come here at night, you will see what I am talking about. They (vandals ) would rob oil on their bodies, in order to make it difficult for anyone to apprehend them. When you attempt to hold them, the oil would make their body slippery .
Most of our men have sustained injuries in the process because they are usually armed. So, we had to resort to the use of charms . The charm I use can turn them to vegetable at a touch , it can also incapacitate them. We also have locally made pistols . We don’ t use AK 47 riffles. Our weapons are licensed.
Back to base
Briefing newsmen at the WNC jetty, at the end of the eight hour patrol , Commodore Adaji explained that they decided to go on joint patrol with the NSCDC in order to facilitate the prosecution of suspects, since they (suspects) were handed over to them(NSCDC). “ We have always had this understanding and relationship with them .
But we are only taking it a step further, that beyond prosecution we will also have joint patrol and we are convinced that such synergy will facilitate the prosecution of illegal bunkerers that are arrested.”
On the resolve of the NN to tackle illegalities on the nation’s waterways, Adaji said “ The nation has a lot of problem with the issue of pipeline vandalism and crud oil theft and government is not leaving anything to chance. All measures are being explored to ensure that this problem comes to an end. The NNPC is in partnership with local communities.”