Christopher Oji, Lagos
The oil wells were being used by the syndicate to siphon petroleum products from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline.
Two female suspects, Victoria and Shafe, who the police believed are the operators of the wells filled with fuel at houses 4 and 2, Surprise Avenue, Ejibgo, were arrested by IRT operatives.
It was gathered that the suspects dug 75-foot wells in their compounds located a few meters from the NNPC pipeline to which they connected pipes with submersible pumping machines.
A police source who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not supposed to speak with the press, said: ‘Whenever the NNPC was transporting its products along the pipeline, the suspects, whose buildings are located side by side, would put on their pumping machines and siphon the products into trucks and jerry cans. The suspects have made millions of money from the business.
‘They ran into trouble when IRT operatives got wind of their activities through some residents of the area who were scared that the actions of the suspects may cause a massive fire outbreak that would have a devastating effect on the area.
‘At Victoria’s apartment, we found jerry cans filled with petroleum products, but Shafe smartly dismantled the pipes and pumping machine in her own well before we arrived at her own compound. But we are currently working on tracing and apprehending people who have been buying the stolen products from them,’ the source said.
Vitoria, 58, and her neighbour, Shafe, claimed that they are not pipeline vandals but that they have regularly scooped petroleum products from ruptured NNPC pipeline located close to their houses. They added that the petroleum products flow into their wells which they sell to people in the neighbourhood.
In an interview with the suspects, Shafe said: ‘I am from Okitupupa area of Ondo State. I have three children. I am a widow. My late husband bought the land where we built our house in 1984 and we dug that well in the year 1999. We were using it for water, but we later discovered that there was petrol in it. We alerted the landlord association about it and we all agreed that we would go to the police station and the Local Government but we were advised to go to the NNPC which we have done. The management of the NNPC sent two delegates on assessment. The delegates came and they took a sample of the water in the well, but they did not come again.
‘Yes, I was arrested before for the same offence. I sold three jerry cans of petrol to someone. After the sales, operatives for the Lagos State Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) stormed my place in 2016. The police released me and warned that I should not go close to the well again. I am sorry that I went back to the temptation and here I am again in the police next,’ she lamented.