The Lagos State Government( LASG) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on Thursday expressed their support to the ongoing OPERATION AWATSE demolition of illegal structures around NNPC’s pipelines. They said that the Defence Headquarters-led operation would rid parts of the country of illegal bunkering and siphoning of crude oil by some people using the shanties as their operational bases.
They expressed their approval after the tour of different communities which host the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines, especially, where man-dugged wells were dug to siphon fuel.
The tour was organised and coordinated by the Nigerian Navy’s OPERATION AWATSE AND KUROMBE.
Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command is the Operation Commander of OPERATION AWATSE.
The Mail News reports that not less than 300 points which were discovered along the NNPC’s pipelines used to illegally siphon petrol were dismantled by the members of the Operation during the exercise.
Mr Muritala Adekunle-Balogun, the Director of Technical Services, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State, said that the state government would not fold its arms while the country was being sabotaged by saboteurs.
“The government cannot fold its arms where illegal occupants are sabotaging the economy of Nigeria, the Lagos State Government will not be part of it, ” he said.
He said that most of the structures in the areas the team visited were illegal and did not have any approval from the government, saying that those that had permits were not demolished.
“Lagos State has not licensed anybody to occupy this place so, most structures found here are illegal structures, their owners never got any permit or approval from the Lagos State Government.
“The relaxation centres were not affected by this Operation because they have our permit, but those that did not have permit are the ones carrying out illegal activities and they are the targets of government.
“Those are the ones sabotaging the economy, ” he said adding that the Lagos State Government has a master-plan that covers all parts of the state.
The director said that with the recent update, the state would put strong machinery in motion to ensure that there was compliance with the physical planning law by citizens of the state.
Also, Mr Yusuf Ahmed, the General Manager, Land and Assets Administration, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said that the demolition of illegal structures along the NNPC’s pipelines was an interesting and right development.
“I will say it is an interesting development for me because these people have been on NPA’s property without its permission, they have been squatters and we are interested in seeing them off.
“So, it’s a right development. For us, it has been difficult to send them out, now that they are out, we are happy.
“They have been there, but we have been unable to eject them.
“And since they have been engaging in illegal activities including oil bunkering, carrying and removing fuel, it has become necessary for the security agencies to come and eject them.
“And we are happy about it,” he said.
Ahmed said that since the Operation had helped to demolish the illegal structures, the NPA would move in to secure its land.
“We are moving in to secure our lands, we will take over and make sure that nobody comes in to trepass. We will use the land for the purposes to which it was acquired (port-related development).
“They are NPA acquired land for port-related activities and that is what you will see coming up there,” he said.
Also, Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, the Operation Commander for OPERATION AWATSE, said that the operation would be sustained under OPERATION KUROMBE.
“Why OPERATION KUROMBE is different from the ongoing operation is that after the phase where we are now, we are entering the stabilisation phase and that is to ensure sustenance of our presence.
“There is going to be our adequate presence, both at the water-fronts and also on the Islands. So, that we will make it difficult for the criminal elements to gain a foothold on the Islands.
“I want to say never again will we allow them to perpetuate the kind of economic sabotage that they are perpetrating against the country ,” he said.
Daji said that most of the vandals were mostly foreigners.
“It is just a few criminal elements that have thousands of jerrycans stored in their backyards, they have wells dugged around their compounds and concealed them. Those are the ones we removed.
“Most of these criminally-minded people are Ghanaians, Beninese, and Togolese citizens, ” he said.
He advised that the good and law-abiding citizens should go about their lawful businesses without fear and assured them that they would not be intimidated by anyone.
The areas enumerated for demolition include; Old Akinbo which has 12 structures, five structures at Aditu, Phase 2 has 17 structures, Ikate has 22 structures, Upstairs has 5 structures while Virgin Land has 3 structures.
White House has 3 structures, Akaraba has 62 structures, Idi Mangoro has 28 structures, Waterside has 19 structures, Ilado has 57 structures, Robert has 13 structures, Abule Glass has 21 structures.
Others are Ilashe which has 37 structures while 150,000 empty jerry cans were discovered, not less than 5,000 jerry cans with PMS were confiscated, 310 discovered well/pits with PMS were discovered.
Also, 21 canoes and two boats were recovered from some the already demolished areas by OPERATION AWATSE members.
The Operation is conducted in line with its mandate and Rule of Engagement which is to curb pipeline vandalism, crude oil and petroleum product theft, anti-kidnapping, anti-robbery, and anti-cultism.
It is also to curb other related criminal activities that could impact negatively on the security of Lagos and Ogun; particularly Epe and Ogun waterside.
The mandate entailed the protection of the critical NNPC pipelines, within the Right Of Way from Atlas Cove to Mosimi were billions of naira had been lost to the activities of pipeline vandals.