by Akan Ido
Over 50 suspected pipeline vandals were said to have died at Arepo Village, Owode LGA of Ogun State yesterday when an NNPC pipeline exploded.
The suspects reportedly breached the oil pipeline to illegally siphon petroleum products from it.
There were fears, last night, that damage to the pipeline could worsen petrol scarcity as it supplies the product from Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos to other South-West states.
Two of the vandals had reportedly engaged in a heated argument which led to one of them shooting into the air with his rifle.
Bullets shot from the rifle hit the ruptured pipeline and led to an explosion which engulfed everyone in the vicinity.
Inspector General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit responded to the explosion where they later arrested one of the survivors who was identified as one of the suspects who participated in the killing of three NNPC officials in Arepo last year.
The suspect, identified as Sunday Reuben, was arrested alongside a doctor who was said to be trying to smuggle him to his clinic for medical attention.
Reuben narrated his ordeal saying many of his fellow-vandals are still in the creeks blown away by the sheer force of the explosion.
According to him, “I was in my house when Suleiman my friend called me that there was a job at Arepo creeks. He asked me to look for a canoe and come with as many gallons as I could carry. Shortly after I arrived I saw people fighting before I heard a gunshot.
“The next thing was an explosion, I was lucky that I wasn’t close to the pipeline. It was the heat of the fire that affected me. I managed to run to my boat where my mother was waiting. There were so many of us both men and women. We are more than 50 persons over there and most of us are still inside that fire. Most of them are still in the creeks dying, please help them. Iya Olabode called a doctor who was about taking me to the hospital when we were arrested by the police.”
The doctor, however, claims he had only responded to distress calls.
“I am a family doctor to Iya Olabode for the past three years. So when she called me that there is an emergency, I quickly rushed to her house where I saw Reuben badly burnt. I advised her that we should take the man to my clinic for better treatment. We were on our way when the police accosted us.
Asked why he did not ask how the suspect sustained his injury, the doctor said, “I forgot to ask him because I was in a hurry to save his life. I never knew that he could be a vandal because Iya Olabode is a good and respectable business woman. I am terribly sorry; I was only trying to save life.”
Confirming the arrests, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Friday Ibadin, who is in charge of the Task Force, said that the explosion started at about 2am yesterday.
“Shortly after the explosion, policemen led by Sector Commander, Lagos, DSP Onaghise Osayande, cordoned off the area to reduce casualties while they awaited the arrival of fire fighters to quench the fire. It was in the process that they stumbled into a jeep carrying one of the survivors and a medical doctor who was on his way to hospital. In the course of interrogation, we discovered that the survivor was one of those who participated in the killing of the NNPC officials last year.
“The taskforce arrested six suspected vandals who were alleged to have participated in the incident that led to the killing of three Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) staff at Arepo Village, Owode in Ogun State”.