By Evelyn Usman
The Lagos State Police Command yesterday, uncovered eleven buildings in Ilasamaja area of Lagos, with one of them popularly called PDP house which were used for illlegal bunkering activities. The police equally arrested four persons allegedly involved in the bunkering.
The buildings located on Ibadan and Abeokuta streets, had underground pipes which pump petroleum products suspected to be diesel into wells. Thereafter, the products are loaded into trucks, drums and jerricans at night.
Vanguard gathered that activities of these suspects had been going on for over five years until policemen from Ilasamaja division led by the Divisional Police Officer, Titilayo Oriyomi Oluwasanmi, a woman Superintendent of Police, SP swooped on them at the early hours of yesterday.
During the routine patrol around Abeokuta street, it was gathered that some buyers who came with jerricans and drums ran into a building on 10 Abeokuta street and locked the door from behind, on sighting the police van. The DPO was said to have gone back to the division, changed into mufti and returned to the street, with a jerrican and went straight to the building ,while her men positioned at strategic points .
Apparently thinking she was one of the buyers, the door of the storey building on 10 Abeokuta street was flung open, only for the occupants to discover that the purported buyer was a cop.
She was said to have combed the building to ascertain what they were doing, only to discover a brick on top of the well. She ordered her men to remove the brick, where it was discovered to the amazement of all that they were siphoning petroleum product from the well.
Preliminary investigation revealed that owner of the building , Mrs Moji Adesina, had ejected all her tenants, in order to avoid being implicated.
It was discovered that a pumping machine was mounted inside the well, from where the product is pumped into trucks which were usually stationed outside. Some jerricans and drums yet to be filled , were recovered close to the well. Checks carried on nine other buildings reveled that similar illegalities were going on there.
It further discovered that under ground pipe was connected to some buildings on the next street (Ibadan street). One of the buildings comprising 17 rooms on number 11 Ibadan street, popularly known as PDP house, had stickers of the Peoples Democratic Party on them. Other buildings on same street where similar discoveries were made included numbers 7, 9, and 13.
The eleventh discovery was made at about 1.35pm, while the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, who visited the scene made an attempt to check the well of a building on number 5 Ibadan street.
Owoseni who was accompanied by the Commander Rapid Response Squad, Olatunji Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, therefore , advised residents of the affected streets to relocate , in order to safeguard their lives in the event of likely fire outbreak.
Also on ground was the Area Commander ‘D’ Mr Salisu Gyadigyadi , an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Addressing the residents in Yoruba dialect, Owoseni said : “You can not tell us that you are not aware of these illegalities in your vicinity. Nevertheless, for your safety, it is better to relocate because with this discovery, perpetrators of this act may decide to set fire on the wells in order to jeopardize investigation. And when that happens, your lives will be endangered. Consider your lives and those of your children”.
Investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that about five landlords allegedly started the illegal bunkering and introduced others. It was reliably gathered that over 50 buildings had oil wells around the area.
Some of the wells were painted with sky blue colour to indicate their owners. Some were even connected to uncompleted buildings. However when approached, occupants of the buildings claimed ignorance of the on-goings.
However, one of them who spoke with Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity, stated that, “We packed into this building ( 11 Ibadan street) four months ago. The first thing we noticed was that the well was locked. When we asked why, other tenants said the landlord locked it because kerosene was mixed with it.
But every night, we notice movements where the well is sited. When my husband came to find out what the movement was all about, he noticed that the people were holding jerricans and drums. We sensed that something was amiss but could not place our hand on what it was. We concluded to pack out when the rent expires before this happened ”.
Another resident, who simply gave his name as Ukachukwu maintained that, “all the tenants in the buildings know that there is oil in the wells but they are afraid to report to the concerned agency out of fear. Some of them who have stayed long are also into it. NNPC should also be investigated because at times, it will come as petrol and at other times, it will be diesel, the question is how is this possible without connivance with an insider in NNPC”?
The residents however reacted to advice for them to relocate, begging to be given some time to gather money with which to pay house rent. However, houses where the discoveries were made were locked up by officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC .
General manager, Lagos State Emagency Management Agency, LASEMA Mr Michael Akindele who visited the area said that his agency was working out on strategy to prevent calamity that could lead to loss of lives and property, even as he advised the residents to seek alternative shelter.
Chairman of the Ilasamaja Community Development Area, Alhaji Abdulfatai Abusiga, who expressed shock over the discovery claimed that he was never aware of such illegalities until yesterday. Also lending voice to the suggestion that residents vacate the area, the Sole Administrator of Isolo Local Council Development Area, Miss Abimbola Osukoya, said that the council would ensure that the directive was adhered to.
Four suspects; two of them landlords and the rest tenants were arrested , with the recovery of four drums and several jerricans. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police said that the suspects would be interrogated with a view to arresting the end users.