Private guards attached to Topline Security, charged with the responsibility of securing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipeline at the Atlas Cove, Lagos, who threatened to engage personnel of the Nigerian Navy in a clash, last Tuesday, at Ilashe Island, Idi-Mongoro area of Atlas Cove, have explained that their action was borne out of their resolve to stop alleged irregularities on recovered siphoned products by the Navy.
Recall that naval personnel from the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, Apapa, led by the Commander, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Okon Eyo, had gone to the Island to effect arrest of vandals and recover siphoned petroleum product, when they met stiff resistance from the guards. The guards, prevented the naval personnel from getting to where the recovered product were, on the ground the arrest was made by them and not the Navy.
But for Eyo’s intervention through an order to his men not to bow to the provocation, the situation would have gone out of hand. The senior naval officer who was not rattled, displayed rear bravery by ordering his men to be calm, before frightened journalists who went to cover the evacuation of the recovered products, were led to the Naval boats which conveyed everyone back to the Navy base.
Explaining the reason for their action yesterday, Commander of the private guards unit at Atlas Cove, Aminu Jeremiah, alleged that previous seizures handed over to the Navy never reached the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as expected. Jeremiah popularly known as JJ, stated that the seizure was made by his team and not the Navy.
According to Jeremiah: “We impounded 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 refused, on the ground that I had to get directive from Abuja. Four days later, 18 naval personnel came and told me that their commander said I should release the vehicles and jerricans to them. By then, I had made another arrest of over 3000 jerricans.
“Again, I refused, insisted rather, that I must get directive from my bosses in Abuja first. 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.
“I know who these vandals that come to break pipelines and siphon petroleum product here, are. Before now, we used to release recovered products to the Navy but they would never take them to the NNPC. Rather, they would 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 , Jeremiah said ” The Navy came that day ( Tuesday) and ordered us to separate ourselves, I said ok and passed the order to my boys. They ( Navy) came with two cameras and started recording the proceedings. But when one of my boys brought out his phone to do same, the Navy took it from him and threatened to break it. But I told them not to smash it, since they were recording also.
“It was when they threatened to arrest me that my boys 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 guns like theirs, we threatened to use juju. I didn’t allow them to move the recovered vehicle and the jerricans before they left. ” We were later directed from Abuja to take the products to the NNPC yard.”
Asked if they were authorised to use arms, Jeremiah replied, ” Yes, we are authorised to carry local guns, just like local vigilante. We do not use English guns. If we have the backing of government, we will police NNPC’s pipeline right of way better than security agents. On our part, i am warning vandals not to come to my land. I may not have the power to kill them but I will beat them to comatose and thereafter, hand them to security agencies”.