When Operation AWATSE destroys pipeline vandals’ 200 illegal structures, shrine

When Operation AWATSE destroys pipeline vandals’ 200 illegal structures, shrine

Thursday, February 27, 2020 8:58 am

File photo: Naval personnel at the scene of an illegal refinery being operated with stolen crude oil

By Modupe Oremule, News Agency of Nigeria {NAN}

They live flamboyant lifestyles as if they have foundations and blue cheap companies that are fetching them money on a daily basis without sweating.

Unfortunately, they are living in a fool’s paradise as they are sourcing their ill- gotten wealth from the common patrimony by bursting crude oil pipelines, engaging in illegal bunkering and selling products from their illicit activities to buyers from neighbouring countries without investigating the sources of such products.

All these and many other vices are carried out by crude oil pipeline vandals to the detriment of millions of innocent Nigerians and thus feasting on the nation’s commonwealth as if it is their birthright.

They also instill fears in the minds of those they consider as likely dissidents such as themselves as well as in their members that they think can expose their dubious activities by threatening them with death.

The vandals also compel their members and unsuspecting members of the public to take the oath of allegiance at their `shrine’ located in Akaraba, their self-acclaimed headquarters. The vandals put up these strategies to protect their illicit activities of rupturing crude oil pipelines to siphon petroleum products from being exposed to the public.

The vandals usually hold the belief that all those who had taken the oath will not reveal how they have been milking the nation of its black gold and will not question their source of life of pretense.

However, the Operation AWATSE, an operational outfit under the Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, operating on intelligence gathering  recently went after the pipeline vandals at their bases, burst their illegal operations, arrested several of them including some foreign nationals  and destroyed their 200 shanties and illegal structures in the waterside areas of Ogun and Lagos States.

The men and officers of Operation AWATSE were never deterred by the superstitious beliefs that the god and goddess at the vandals’ shrine and in the oath-taking being touted by the smart alec  as their sources of strength to make life unbearable for millions of other Nigerians can have any negative effects  on them.

Rather, they were propelled by patriotism and the mandate to provide security for the nation’s citizens and its territorial waterways to dare the pipeline vandals; arrested them and destroyed their illegal shanties after they had secured the approval of the Defence Headquarters, the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority {NPA}.

Rear Adm. Dele Daji, the Flag Officer Commanding {FOC} ,Western Naval Command led the Operation AWATSE as its Commander to carry out what can be described as a precise surgical operation  against the pipeline vandals.

The outfit destroyed and demolished Akaraba, the spiritual headquarters of the vandals as well as the shrine there alongside other illegal 62 structures where the vandals were operating from.

Rear Adm. Daji also listed other  illegal structures demolished by the outfit on the various islands outside Akaraba.

These include: 12 illegal structures at Old Akinbo; five structures at Aditu; 17 structures at Phase 2; 22 structures at Ikate ; five structures at Upstairs and three structures at  Virgin Land.

He added that three structures were demolished at White House; 28 destroyed at  Idi Mangoro ;19 at  Waterside and 57  structures demolished at Ilado; 13 demolished at Robert Island and 21 structures demolished at Abule Glass.

According to him, 37 structures were demolished at  Ilashe, 150,000 empty jerry cans, 5,000 jerry cans with PMS and  310 oil wells with PMS were discovered and confiscated  during the raid. He said this was in addition to 21 canoes and 2 boats recovered from the vandals by the team during the operation.

Daji told newsmen that accompanied the team after one of the operations that most of the vandals perpetually live on the pipeline.

“They perpetually live on the pipeline, there is no other thing they live on, they don’t farm, they don’t fish, yet they live very flashy and flamboyant lifestyles. ”

Daji in his position as the Commander of Operation AWATSE also explained that the vandals has a spiritual headquarters as a way of giving the impression to the public that there activities are  organised, saying that they swore oath of allegiance there.

It is not by accident that the place is called Akaraba as it served as the meeting point for the reception of refined products between the vandals and their prospective buyers.

“And if they, the vandals are suspicious that someone will report any of their activities to the security agencies, they mark such for assassination and to prove a point, they had buried three people alive in this groove,” he said.

Daji also told newsmen that from investigation, the Operation AWATSE team gathered that the vandals deliberately erected monuments in the villages and island where they operate from to engrave their inimical act in the hearts of both the dissidents and the public.

“Some people came and tell us that they have their ancestral graves in those settlements where we had dismantled illegal oil wells. And the names of some individuals are usually written on the man-dug wells, it is all a lie, “he said.

He said that the criminals were into an organised crime and were only putting up such pranks to cover up their unpatriotic actions from the unsuspecting members of the public.

He wondered that if the vandals were not into an organised crime, how were there close to 300 ruptured points along the NNPC pipeline in one of the affected communities in addition to the 200 other illegal structures or shanties demolished by Operation AWATSE in the course of carrying out its raid.

The journalists that accompanied the Operation AWATSE officers during the exercise to the Atlas Cove were scared when they were shown a  man-hole dug in an uncompleted section of a two-bedroom apartment  with petroleum products inside it.  The owner was said not to be mindful of the danger such can pose to his family and the community in case it has contact with naked fire and explodes.

The officers also showed the newsmen various devices they discovered such as fabricated pipes and multiple hoses that were connected to the NNPC pipelines to illegally siphon petrol for sale to unscrupulous elements.

Also during the raid, the naval team apprehended some foreigners on the Islands raided without any form of documentations.

The troops in their interactions and interrogations of dwellers of some of the islands revealed that the vandals used to collude with miscreants to export the stolen products to some of the neighbouring countries thereby short-changing Nigeria from earning foreign revenues from her exported crude oil.

The Operation AWATSE launched in 2016 by the Defence Headquarters has, no doubt, continued to live to its mandate by waging war against pipeline vandalism, crude oil and petroleum products’ theft, anti-kidnapping, anti-robbery, and anti-cultism.

It has also continued to restore peace and tranquility to Lagos and Ogun; particularly Epe and Ogun waterside in line with its mandate and Rule of Engagement. Through its activities, it has continued to protect the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines, within the Right of Way from Atlas Cove to Mosimi were billions of naira had been lost to the activities of pipeline vandals in the past.

The security outfit has also promised to ensure that sanity is maintained within the Area of Responsibility {AOR} of the Western Naval Command.

The commander of Operation AWATSE must be commended for putting a human face to the exercise by involving the relevant stakeholders such as the Lagos State Government {LASG} and the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) before and during its operations.

Both the Lagos State Government {LASG} and the Nigerian Ports Authority { NPA}  also expressed their supports for Operation AWATSE  for sanitising Atlas Cove and ejecting  illegal occupants from there. They encouraged the security outfit and others that will be saddled with similar responsibilities in the future to always synergise with the relevant stakeholders so as to ensure proper collaboration during execution.

Mr Muritala Adekunle-Balogun, the Director of Technical Services in the state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State said that the government would not fold its arm while some people were sabotaging the country’s socio-economic development.

“The government cannot fold its arms where illegal occupants are sabotaging the economy of Nigeria adding that Lagos State government will not be part of it,” he said.

He said that most of the structures in the areas were illegal and didn’t have any approval from the government, saying that those that had permits were not demolished.

“Lagos State has not licensed anybody to occupy this place so; most of the structures found here are illegal as the builders never got any permit or approval from the state government.

“The leisure centres were not affected by this Operation because they have our permit, but those that don’t have our permits are the ones carrying out illegal activities and they are the targets of government.

According to him, the Lagos State Government has a master-plan that covers all parts of the state.

He said that with the recent development, the state would put necessary machinery in motion to ensure that there was compliance with the physical planning law of the state.

Also, Mr Yusuf Ahmed, the General Manager, Land and Asset Administration, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said that the demolition was an interesting and a right development.

“I will say it is an interesting development for me because these people have been on NPA’s property without permission, they have been squatters and we are interested in seeing them off.

“So, it is a right development, for us, it has been difficult to send them out, now that they are out, we are happy.

“They have been there, we have been unable to move them but when they engaged in illegal activities including oil bunkering, carrying and removing fuel.

“It became necessary for the security agencies to come in and do  what they had to do and we are happy about it,” he said.

Ahmed said that since the Operation had helped to demolish the illegal structures, the NPA would move in to secure its land.

“We are moving in to secure our lands, we will take over and make sure that nobody comes in and trespass. We will use the land for the purposes for which it was acquired: port-related development,’’ he said. {NANFeatures}


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