Many residents of Ikorodu Town in Lagos have lamented the hardship caused by an ongoing military action against petroleum products pipeline vandals in the area.
Hundreds of residents and visitors spent several hours in traffic during the Eid-el Kabir holiday because of the gridlock caused by military blockade of the Majidun area, which incidentally is the only direct entry point from other parts of Lagos.
Men of the Nigerian Navy, Army and Security and Civil Defence Corps swooped on the area early on Saturday and were still there as at the time of filing this report on Tuesday.
At least 50 suspected vandals were arrested on the first day of the exercise
About 100 canoes and ferries used by the vandals were reportedly recovered as at 7.30pm on Saturday.
Vanguard reported that over 1,000 50 litres jerry cans filled with siphoned petroleum product and over 2,000 empty ones were also recovered.
Military sources disclosed that the action followed intelligence report on activities of pipeline vandals in the area. It was gathered that the operatives stormed the creeks while the vandals were operating.
Sources hinted that the vandals attempted to shoot, but on realising that it was a military action, jumped into the river and swam away.
The presence of the military men on water and land sent fear among residents of the area.
Homes were deserted as residents fled for fear of arrest.
Sand dredgers in the area also abandoned their business.
A resident told Vanguard on phone: “The raid even caused a hitch in the flow of traffic as the military men positioned themselves in strategic points around the area.
“This paid off as some vandals, who managed to escape from the creeks, were arrested while attempting to board motorbikes. We just hope this will continue, so as to bring sanity to this area.”
Qed.ng correspondent who visited the area on Monday and Tuesday reported that motorists coming from the Ipakodo and Agric areas of Ikorodu spent an average of one hour on a journey that normally lasted for three minutes.
Many aborted their journey and turned back when the situation became unbearable.
Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials especially at Ogolonto roundabout were overwhelmed and had a tough time controlling the situation, especially as some drivers insisted on driving against the traffic.
“The soldiers are not even mindful of the chaos their action has caused. What they are doing is good but the traffic is horrible,” a LASTMA official lamented.
In a message posted on Twitter on Tuesday, member of the House of Representatives, Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, wrote: “doesn’t make sense, but hopefully it ends today.”
The Nigerian Navy later on Tuesday said it impounded over 2,000 gallons of petroleum products.
Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, told newsmen that the operation, which took his men sleepless nights, was carried out following a tip-off from the public.
“As you may be aware the Federal Government has been confronted with the challenges of combating illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
“These illegal activities have not only led to significant loss in revenue accruable to the Federal Government, but also cause damage to strategic installations which require colossal amount of money to repair.
“Pipeline vandalism has also led to pollution of the maritime environment and in some cases, fire disasters resulting in loss of lives and property.
“Communities like Majidun, Arepo, Ogolonto and Makoko in Ikorodu Local Government area of Lagos State are renowned for illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
“The perpetrators use self-propelled barges and wooden boats to ferry the stolen products to their destinations. They are also usually armed to confront anyone that attempts to stop their operation”.
Alade said the operation, code-named “AWATSE”, which literally means SCATTER, was aimed at dislodging the perpetrators of the illegal act.
“The operation was initiated by the Nigerian Navy and supported by the Nigerian Army and it is still ongoing.
“The operation has yielded success and so far; persons arrested after interrogation and confirmed as culprits, would be handed over to the appropriate prosecuting agency.
“The products will be handed over to the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) for storage, pending termination of the operation,” he said.
The Naval chief said that on completion of the operation, the Navy would consider establishing a base in the area.
He appealed to residents of Majidun to be patient and assured them that the operation would soon be over.
“Whatever we are doing here is also in the interest of the residents of Majidun and the economic survival of the nation,” he said.
Alade also appealed to the public to provide the Navy with useful information to assist it in apprehending the perpetrators.
He said that the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, had zero tolerance for maritime crimes in the country.