A fisherman, Adebawo Timilehin, has told officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Lagos State Command, that he earned N200,000 per trip from transporting stolen fuel to the high sea.
The 42-year-old native of Ilaje, Ondo State, said pipeline vandalism was one of the most lucrative jobs in the country.
He said he joined the illegitimate business five years ago because he needed to feed his three wives and seven children.
He said, “I have a huge boat and I usually use it to convey passengers and palm oil.
“However, about five years ago, one Andrew Kojo approached me and asked if I could help him convey some drums of petrol across the river.
“He said he would pay me N1,200 for each drum. Each drum usually contain 250 litres of petrol and my boat can convey 300 drums at once. I suspected that the fuel was stolen, but I did not bother to ask since there was a lot of money to be made.
“Most times I carried about 170 drums of petrol and he would pay me cash. When we get across, Kojo would then convey the petrol to Benin Republic.
“I wasn’t transporting the stolen fuel everyday, but anytime I transported the fuel, I was given a minimum of N200,000.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that Timilehin was arrested last Tuesday when his boat was wrecked by violent waves.
It was learnt that about 200 drums of petrol were left floating on the high sea.
The suspect, it was learnt, was arrested while trying to escape.
Sources told our correspondent that Kojo was a major supplier to oil unions in Benin Republic.
It was learnt that efforts were on to apprehend him.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that during the operation, four other suspects, Adeleke Obasan, Jackson Agbowon, Samuel Emeaigbo and Tofle Akinmuleya were arrested.
Obasan, who is a relative of Timilehin, said he was not a pipeline vandal but only wanted to bribe NSCDC officials to effect Timilehin’s release.
He said, “I was told by some people that my brother (Timilehin) had been arrested by NSCDC men. So, I arranged some money to effect his release, but I was arrested.
“I have two wives and four children and they depend on me for survival. I am not a criminal. I only offered the civil defence men money.”
The other suspects, however, claimed to be mechanics that had come to help a customer to repair a speed boat engine when they were arrested by the NSCDC.
The Commandant, NSCDC, Lagos State Command, Clement Adesuyi, decried the rate of pipeline vandalism.
He, however, promised that the corps would continue to do all it could to tackle pipeline vandalism.
He said efforts were on to recover the drums of petrol which Timilehin abandoned at sea.
He said, “Based on a tip-off that a gang of pipeline vandals was operating on the high sea and moving stolen fuel from Atlas Cove to neighbouring countries, we set up a surveillance around Badagry to monitor the trend.
“One of the boats was loaded with drums of petrol, while the other one was loaded with empty kegs. The petrol is contained in 200 drums and each drum contains 250 litres so that is a total of about 50,000 litres. So far, we have recovered 108 drums.
“We have also noticed that vandals are taking the high sea. Most of the stolen fuel is sold in Togo and Benin Republic.”