The Nigerian Navy on Tuesday said it had arrested Shaibu Ogunmola, an alleged notorious pipeline vandal under its Operation Awase, in Lagos.
Operation Awase was set up by the Nigerian Army in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy in 2014, to tackle the vandalism of the NNPC pipelines in Majidun, Ikorodu and other parts of the state and to crave the maximum cooperation of host communities.
Obed Ngalabak, a rear admiral and leader of the operation, told reporters that Mr Ogunmola and his boys were known for vandalising oil pipelines under the Altas Cove.
The Atlas Cove Depot in Lagos was designed to receive imported petroleum products and through the line products are distributed to various part of the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that at the Ilashe Community where Shuaibu operates, drums were buried by the sides of the each pipeline to siphon products when being released from the Atlas cove to other depots.
“Two weeks back, we got information about the operation of some people in Ilashe, part of Atlas cove.
“Following that information, we came and realised that the oil pipelines have been divided into fields by three people, Shuaibu, Barshiru and Dele.
“The arrest of Shuaibu which we did last week on Jan. 17 was in line with the operation Awase which is about the protection of oil pipelines.
“He is the ring leader and has been in this business for over 30 years,’’ he said
He said Mr Ogunmola had groomed some boys in the business adding that his arrest was significant in ensuring the end of vandalism in Nigeria.
Mr Ngalabak said Mr Ogunmola would soon be handed over to relevant agency for immediate and proper prosecution, to serve as a deterrent to his boys and others in the line of business.
“We hope that Shuaibu’s arrest will yield result and that proper people in position will do all that is required to punish him,’’ he added
He assured that the operation would not rest until all those involved in oil pipeline vandalism were arrested and brought to book.
“We still have about three Shuaibu’s, we have Dele, we have Bashiru, and one other person and we are after them.
“We are not going to rest until we get them, except if they leave Nigeria – but we will make sure that we get them.
“And we know that they will not leave because this is where they make their money; but if they leave here, that is good for us because that is our aim but if they come back, we will get them,’’ he said.
He called for support on logistics for the operations to work effectively and urged Nigerian to support every effort that would help to curb pipeline vandalism for economic growth and development in the country.
Also, the General Manager, Security, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Sam Otoboeze, said that the arrest of Mr Ogunmola meant celebration for the corporation.
“The arrest means celebration for us because of the deterrent impact, not only the prosecution of the key character, but the message that will go out.
“We do hope that the way it is handled will determine to what extent the success will be sustained.
“We celebrate that arrest and we thank the Nigerian Navy for picking him up and want to hope that this continues until so many other Shuaibus’ are arrested because certainly, they are more than 10,’’ he said
Mr Otoboeze noted that Mr Ogunmola and others in the business of pipeline vandalism remained the major enemies of Nigeria.
“You can imagine the wastages, not the one stolen but the one wasted for it to drip into their well, underground tank; you can imagine what that is.
“So, the economic sabotage is massive and a fight to bring it down is something to be celebrated. It is also celebration of reliving the country from the shackles of poverty.
He assured that the NNPC would continue to strengthen its partnership with all the agencies to ensure effective protection of the nation’s oil pipelines for economic growth and development in the country.
“We have a kind of robust intelligence network, outside our own system, which we can also support the government.
“Also, to be the voice of the agency when they require support, like logistic to make them succeed, that we will do,’’ he added.
This, he noted would continue to strengthen the relationship and ensure that we keep the fire burning.
Commenting on the economic values of the Atlas Cove pipeline, he said: “the economic benefit is huge, one is that the history of fuel scarcity will be gone, the origin, the foundation, the tap root of fuel scarcity was from the attack of this place.
“The moment this place is tampered with, there will be fuel scarcity; just imagine the quantity of fuel that goes into the soil wasted.
“Then imagine the more that is scooped and sent across to Cotonou, because there is their major artery of their supply.
“So, if this battle is won, we will be able to think and it might even help to crash fuel price, because when you have it in surplus, then of cause, in demand and supply argument of typical economics, it could come down.
“So, we need it, it is a war for the nation not a war for one person, it is not for security agencies alone or NNPC alone.
“It is for all and sundry because down the line it affect those that are yet unborn, including the children in the school and the aged who are waiting for their pension.’’
Meanwhile, in an interview with Mr Ogunmola, he denied being a vandalism kingpin, adding that he had no idea of the reason he was arrested by the Navy.
“I don’t know why they arrested me, I was in my house, I was going to pray when this people came and arrested me.
“I am a business man, I am an hotelier,’’ he said.