A student at a university in Benin Republic, Abdulmajid Mustapha, has been arrested by operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Lagos State Command, for his alleged involvement in oil theft.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the 25-year-old Beninois was apprehended along Badagry waterways with three accomplices, Hounpevi Dossa, Jacob Hungbe and Michael Houessou, while they were returning in a boat to their country with about 80 jerrycans loaded with kerosene and diesel.
It was gathered that two other gangs, comprising seven and three members respectively, were arrested along the waterways. Empty jerrycans and those filled with diesel and kerosene were reportedly recovered from them.
The suspects were paraded at the NSCDC headquarters in Ikeja on Thursday along with the exhibits recovered from them.
Mustapha, who spoke to our correspondent through an interpreter, said he was engaged by one Isaac, who is at large, claiming that he was ferried to Badagry without being told the nature of the job.
He said, “I am a 200 level student in Benin Republic. I am studying Geography. The school is on vacation and I decided to do some jobs to raise funds. This is the first time I would do this kind of job. I was not told the nature of the job by Isaac who engaged me. He only directed us to come to a place in Badagry to bring some loads. It was somebody that introduced me to him.
“By the time we got to the place, we already met Isaac there. He came by road. We loaded the product and were returning back when we were arrested. He did not follow us. I did not know what we were doing is illegal. We were caught with kerosene and diesel.”
Another suspect, Theodore Dosson. 18, confirmed that he and his gang members were caught with empty jerrycans, which he said they were taking to a location Pashi, Badagry on the orders of his boss.
He said, “I am an apprentice barber. We were caught on the sea with empty jerrycans on our way to Pashi from Benin Republic. After delivering the empty jerrycans, we were supposed to wait for our boss called Nike. He is the one that would determine the next action. This was the first time I would get involved in this kind of job”
Also paraded were two suspects, Tosin Arigbo and Adebawo Ogoluwa, who were arrested on Wednesday at a riverbank in the Oyingbo area of the state with two boats containing several 250-litre drums loaded with kerosene. One of the boats was reportedly sunk by other fleeing suspects. As of Friday, 88 drums of the product were said to have been evacuated from the drowning boat.
Arigbo, a boat operator from Ondo State, said he was sent to deliver the product to a union of kerosene sellers in Lagos.
The 42-year-old said, “I usually convey kerosene from Ondo to Lagos. I have a boss called Adebawo. He is the owner of the boat. I deliver the product to a union of kerosene sellers in Lagos. It is the secretary of the union that collects the product on behalf of the members. The kerosene is ferried from Delta State. I don’t know how my boss gets it. I am not part of those who bring it from Delta.”
Ogoluwa, 38, who is also a native of Ondo State, said, “I work with the operator of the second boat. I offload goods it carries. That day, I entered the boat from Epe en route to Whitesand, Oyingbo. I was about to offload palm oil, fish and other items it conveyed when the NSCDC men came and arrested me. I did not know the boat was being used to carry kerosene.”
The NSCDC Commandant in the state, Tajudeen Balogun, said the arrests were made during special operations across the state by the corps’ anti-vandal unit in conjunction with men of the Nigerian Navy.
He said three tankers of 45,000-litre capacity each were recovered from some suspects who took to their heels on sighting the operatives.
He said, “One of the tankers is fully loaded, one is almost half loaded while the third one is empty. In another operation around Oyingbo, some suspected vandals were in two boats loaded with kerosene. The suspects dived into the sea on sighting our men, but two of them were later arrested. Eighty eight drums of 250 litres each containing AGO (kerosene) have been recovered from the boats so far.
“Based on synergy with the sister agency, we found about 300 jerrycans of 30-litre each filled with suspected PMS product. Preliminary investigation showed that the product was being taken to a neighbouring country because most of the suspects are not Nigerians. The products would be evacuated by the NNPC and all the suspects would be charged to court.”
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