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Navy personnel in Atlas Cove shielding pipeline vandals, guards allege 

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A private security outfit, Topline Security, yesterday explained why its officials threatened to engage personnel of the Nigerian Navy in a fight on Monday afternoon. The Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft and the private security guards were at the verge of engaging each other in a bloody clash at Ilashe Island, Idi-Mangoro area of Atlas Cove, Lagos State.

The firm in a press briefing explained that its action was as a result of its resolve to stop alleged irregularities on recovered siphoned products by the Navy.A near bloody clash between the guards engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and naval personnel from the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, led by the commander, Commodore Okon Eyo, on who would take custody of over 3,000 jerry-cans filled with siphoned petroleum products by vandals, had ensued on Monday. 

But for the intervention of Eyo, who ordered his men not to react to the brazen affront, the situation would have turned bloody. Eyo had explained that with the aerial view, the navy decided to move in to ascertain the activities, only to be confronted with provocation.Accusing the guards of conniving with vandals to siphoned petroleum products, Eyo said: “They say that they have contract to secure the pipeline. We are going to meet with the management of NNPC to review the contract terms. We also saw that they are carrying guns, we will also ascertain if they are allowed to carry arms. The way they appeared today goes to show that they are not trained to carry guns.”

Explaining why they put up such act, the commander of the guards at Atlas Cove, Aminu Jeremiah, explained that the seizure was made by his boys and not naval personnel, alleging that previous seizures handed over to the navy never reached the NNPC as expected. According to Jeremiah: “We caught two cars with fuel at virgin land about six days ago but the occupants fled on sighting us. Later, I started receiving telephone calls from officers of the Nigerian Navy to release the products, but I said no, except I get directive from Abuja. Four days later, they came again for me to release it to them. By then, I had made another arrest of over 3,000 jerry-cans.

“I know who these vandals that come to break pipeline here and siphon petroleum product are. Immediately they sighted us, they fled into the bush. Any time I want to arrest them, the navy will say that I want to spoil show and destroy area. “Yesterday, (Monday) about 18 naval personnel came in the morning and told me that their commander said I should release the vehicles. But I still refused and insisted I must get directive from my bosses in Abuja. They even told me that their commander said they should arrest me if I refused to release the recovered items to them. I called Abuja to inform my bosses of the plan to arrest me. Before now, we used to release recovered products to them but the navy will never take them to the NNPC, rather they will sell them on the sea or keep them in their office.”

Asked why they almost opened fire on the naval personnel including journalists who came to witness the evacuation of the recovered products from Virgin Island on Monday evening, Jeremiah said: “The navy came again and ordered us to separate ourselves, I said ok, and passed the order to my boys. They came with two cameras and started recording the going on, but when one of my boys brought out his phone and was recording on video, the navy took the camera from him, threatening to break it. But I said no that they too were recording also.

“It was when they threatened to arrest me that my men resisted. The guns we were with were small arms. I told them if they come near me, I would hit them. Since we don’t have powerful weapons like theirs, we threatened to use juju. I didn’t allow them to move the recovered vehicle and the jerry-cans before they left. As at yesterday, we were given directive from Abuja to take the products to the NNPC yard.”

Asked if they were authorised to be armed, Jeremiah said: “Yes, we have authorisation to carry local guns, just like local vigilance groups. We do not use English guns. If we have the backing of government, we will police pipeline right of way better than security agents. On our part, I am warning the vandals not to come to our land. I may not have the power to kill them but I will beat them to comatose and hand them over to security agents,” he boasted.


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