By Ola Agbaje and Christopher Oji
For the past six months, border towns between Lagos and Ogun States, Ikorodu, Ishawo, Igando, Ayobo among others have been under attacks by militants.
The militants have not only robbed, maimed, kidnapped, but have killed scores of their victims.
Recently, the General Overseer, New Life Gospel Mission, Lagos, Rev. Zacheus Adebola and his son Toba were abducted. While Toba was released after ransom was paid, the preacher was shot dead and buried in a shallow grave in the creek. Rev. Adebola’ story was one of the many killings perpetrated by the militants.
Three weeks ago, the Oniba of Ibaland in Lagos, Oba Goriola Oseni was abducted from his palace and whisked away in a speedboat to the creek. He is still in captivity while the family is negotiating ransom with his abductors.
Following the state of insecurity in Lagos and Ogun States, the Federal Government recently clamped down on the militants. The military, since last weekThursday has rained bomb on the creeks and many militants have so far been feared killed.
However, Saturday Sun investigations revealed that contrary to the widely held belief that the kidnapping and other criminal activities were being perpetrated by the Niger Delta Avengers, the criminal elements are indeed oil thieves and armed robbers.
How it began
It was gathered that the vandals were having field days, siphoning petroleum products illegally from the NNPC pipelines in boarder towns between Lagos and Ogun States before the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari decided to apply the big stick on the hoodlums.
Joint security operatives were deployed to the entrance and exit routes of the oil thieves. The hoodlums waited patiently for the security agents to quit the stage for business to continue, but the security agencies refused to go. It was gathered that when they had run out of money and could no longer bear the hardship, survival instinct pushed them to think of what to do.
They went into armed robbery and kidnapping after the military had made oil theft virtually unattractive.
Emmanuel Arigidi, one of the suspects that abducted the Ikorodu school girls threw light on their transformation from being vandals to kidnappers. “We are not members of the Niger Delta Avengers. We were into oil bunkering. We live in the creek. Some of us including, Uki, TK, Falola, Felix who were big guys in oil bunkering stay in Festac creeks, Ikorodu and Ajah areas. When government made it difficult for them to operate, they decided to go into other crimes. They started using my camp, Adama, as training ground for amoury and safe keeping of kidnappers victims.
“We have no pipeline in Adama, but it is habitable. There was no threat. We live normal lives. Big guys like Osy, the leader of Fatola camp used to supply us arms and ammunition. Some wanted armed robbers, including Million used to visit us to recruit some guys for robbery. The FCMB attack on Lekki was organised in Adama creek and acthe robbery attack in Festac town”, he confessed.
Another suspect, Sobijo said: “I think the government became hard on us when seven officials of the Department of the State Security Service (DSS) were killed in Arepo area. They had come to rescue a woman who was abducted and they were killed. Their bodies were dragged into the creek and were buried.
They were killed by Osy, Agballa, Keremere. Kelly Fotor who specialised in bank robbery.”
A resident of Arepo, Mr. Sunday said, “the security situation in Arepo took a turn for the worse when Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation stopped pumping fuel through the pipelines in the community.
“The vandals-turned militants have always been in the creeks but they never gave us any problem. However, when there were no more pipelines to burst, they started kidnapping people for ransom.
“Each time they come, there would be shouting, ‘Since you gave government, information about us, you are going to be providing food for us. We will abduct you so that we can survive on ransom.”
Recently, one of the kidnappers of the three female students of Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos, Jumbul arrested by the Lagos State Police Command told Saturday Sun, “we were into oil bunkering. You would remember that seven months ago, there was fire outbreak in the creeks. The fire raged for hours and it burnt over 400 members of our community. When we saw the damage done by fire disaster, we were scared. Dead bodies, including some family members, friends, especially girl friends who came to visit their relatives were caught in the web. Well, it was not reported because we are doing illegal business.
“It was the fire outbreak that killed our members that made some of us to start thinking on the way forward. We decided to go into kidnapping since it is the only business that can give us big money, at least a little but near what we used to get from oil theft. Well, my group went into kidnapping. We did three abductions before that of the school children in Babington Macaulay Memorial Junior Seminary. Some of us went into armed robbery. Some of us combined the two.
“For example, TK who was killed between Nigeria and Republic of Benin recently was a big guy controlling over 200 soldiers in Igegemo creek, near Festac Town. He was shot dead recently by the combined team of operatives from Lagos and Cotonou. He was into oil theft, but when the Buhari administration blocked all the routes, he and his empire switched over to kidnapping, armed robbery and car snatching. He was also into advanced fee fraud. His signature was crime. The reason is that people must survive. Survival instinct must push one to one crime or the other”
While drawing a line between the militants in the South West and those in the Delta, he said “No, it will not be right to associate the militants in Lagos and Ogun State creeks with the Niger Delta Avengers. We may come from the same place but we have different agitations. The Niger Delta Avengers are fighting for the environmental degradation and against marginalization. We are fighting for our stomachs. We are different from Niger Delta Avengers. Well, you may be right if you say we are common criminals. I think, we should be addressed like thieves or kidnappers, rather than addressing us as militants.”
Another militant, Otiono arrested last week at Ishawo, Ikorodu corroborated Johnbull’s view. He said “well, I think because, we are addressed as militants, that is why the military is carrying out offensive against us. People should stop addressing us as militants.”