Philip Nwosu, Lagos
There was pandemonium in the Atlas Cove area of Lagos as operatives of a private security outfit, Topline Security, reportedly engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) to guard its pipelines, threatened to kill naval personnel and journalists on site.
The naval personnel led by the Commander, Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Commodore Eyo Okon, had arrived at the area located around the Takwa Bay area of Lagos to retrieve a jerrican of fuel allegedly abandoned by fleeing vandals, but were prevented by the private security operatives from doing so.
Sources tell Daily Sun that the private security men cocked their rifles and held journalists and the naval officers hostage for few hours.
The navy officers were prevented from recovering the fuel and transporting it to the naval base, with the private security reportedly yelling and complaining about interference from the Navy and other armed forces, who frequent the area, preventing them from doing their jobs.
The leader of the private security operatives yelled at and abused the naval Commander and his personnel on the island, as the journalists scampered for safety.
According the witness, the private security personnel, brandishing charms and amulets, were agitated to the point where they said: “we are ready to die here. We will all die. We will simply blow off these jerricans and cause explosion than allow you carry them. Enough of the threats.”
At this time, the witness said, the local security men with their pump action rifles have surrounded the naval personnel and the journalists and blocked the only narrow bush path to the place.
The security men are also reported to have threatened that nobody would leave the area alive, causing journalists detained at the scene to panic.
It was gathered that the private security personnel wanted to provoke the Navy to begin shooting, which would have resulted in a bloody encounter. However, Commander Okon calmed the situation and prevented what could have escalated into bloodshed.
It was learnt that the over 3000 jerricans filed with petroleum products, amounting to over 150,000 litres of PMS, were recovered from suspected vandals at Idi-Mongoro area of Atlas Cove, Lagos.
Speaking on the tense faceoff, Commander Okon said that the Navy would meet with the NNPC to review the terms of engagement it had with Topline Security.
Okon also said that the Navy was also going to ascertain if the private security guards were allowed to carry arms.
“You all saw what happened at Ibeshe, a riverine community that plays host to an important NNPC facility.
“Personnel of Topline Security claimed they were awarded the contract of protecting the pipeline that runs from Atlas Cove through Satellite Town to Ejigbo, Mosemi, and to Ilorin and other parts of the country.
“You also witnessed the shameless attitude which their personnel put up. They were apparently trying to provoke the Navy into taking actions.
“But ours is not to endanger the lives of people.
“We also saw that they are carrying guns; we will also ascertain if they are allowed to carry arms,” the Commander said
He revealed that it was in the course of aerial reconnaissance that the Navy sighted over 3000 jerricans loaded onto vehicles.
Following the aerial intelligence, the Navy then decided to move in to further investigate, which resulted in the faceoff.
However, in a swift reaction, a Top Line Security official at the scene, Tiamiyu Jeremiah, accused the Navy of aiding the vandals.
He said that Top Line Security guards recovered the products from suspected vandals who siphoned them from NNPC pipelines that runs from Atlas Cove, Apapa to Ejigbo and Mosemi depots in Lagos.
Jeremiah said that, as at the time the products were recovered on Sunday, they were being conveyed in five vehicles to an unknown destination.