By CHIOMA IGBOKWE AND UBONG UKPONG I
n what seemed a power show between two federal agencies, policemen yesterday shot dead two Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officers at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines in Ikorodu, Lagos State.
The two dead Civil Defence men are Messrs Adaji Gabriel, Assistant Inspector of Corps and Innocent Akegbe, an Inspector. According to a source, Police Inspector Sunday Gabriel with service No 120622 attached to the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipelines Vandalism Unit was allegedly with the team that killed the NSCDC men.
The state police command has since arrested all its officers on the site. The police and NSCDC gave accounts of what led to the killing. On how the incident occurred, a police source said that “at about 1am on Wednesday, operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force were alerted by the Deputy Manager Security, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), that there was a drop in pressure. They requested that the area should be patrolled to find out if vandals were tampering with the pipelines or a possible leakage.
“The Lagos sector commander quickly dispatched men to patrol all the vandals-prone areas in Ikorodu. It was while they were on patrol; they heard gunshots, around Konu axis. Policemen led by Inspector Sunday Gabriel traced the gunshot to a spot where they saw 13 members of NSCDC in two Hillux van. The police officers who were about four were confronted by the leader of the NSCDC as to what they were doing at that spot. Inspector Gabriel told them that they were on patrol of the area and questioned their activities in that area.
At that point, the commander of the NSCDC ordered his men to arrest Inspector Gabriel, alleging that he was disrespectful. They managed to handcuff him, took his pistol and Identity Card while they dragged him to their vehicle. “Fortunately, the other policemen were able to get a call across to their commander who sent for re-inforcement. In a bid to protect their territory, gun battle ensued while the NSCDC operatives fled the scene and left one of their officers behind.” Meanwhile, the NSCDC has said that their men were actually ambushed by the policemen who they alleged were collaborating with the pipeline vandals.
The NSCDC National Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Okeh, said in a statement that the policemen ambushed and opened fire on men of the anti-vandal squad of the Lagos State Command of NSCDC, killing two men on the spot while others escaped with gunshot wounds in Ikorodu axis of Lagos State.
“This incident occurred at about 3am on Wednesday while the officers and men of the corps were returning from a successful anti-vandals operation where vandals were arrested along with their exhibits and being transported back to the state headquarters of the corps. “According to an eyewitness account, the vandals phoned their police collaborators for support as they could not overwhelm the anti-vandals team of the corps.
Immediately, the police got wind of the information, they laid ambush and opened fire on the NSCDC patrol vehicles killing two, while others scampered for their safety with gunshot wounds as the vandals were released immediately by the police. On seeing that it was the police, the men of the corps refused to fire a single shot from their rifles, but could only express shock at a sister agency which ordinarily should assist in fighting crimes and other criminality are the ones aiding them while the vandals continue to flourish in crime.”
Another senior NSCDC official, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said, “Around midnight, a team of NSCDC officials had just arrested some suspected vandals during a raid. After the raid, the officials were driving along the expressway when a team of mobile policemen accosted them. An argument ensued as one of the policemen said that we had no right to operate in the area.
“The NSCDC men explained that it was their duty to protect all government facilities including oil pipelines. After sometime, our men left but unknown to them, a team of policemen laid ambush ahead. The policemen opened fire on our men, killing two and injuring five.” The state police command’s spokesperson, DSP Ngozi Braide said that the police are investigating the matter and would ensure that those who were behind the fracas would face the wrath of the law. She, however, commiserated with the families of the bereaved while calling on both agencies to exercise restraint. Daily Sun also contacted, the Head of PPMC/NNPC, Nasir Mohammed to ascertain whose duty it was to protect the pipelines.
He said the corporation has shared out specific areas to specific agencies for accountability. “According to the laws of the land, most of the security agencies including the police and NSCDC were empowered to guard lives and properties of Nigeria. But in recent times, we have discovered that the rate at which pipelines are vandalized is on the increase. This is why we decided to partner Nigeria Police to guide specific areas where NNPC pipelines are laid. We need to hold a particular agency responsible for any form of sabotage.
We have partnered various agencies but the Arepo and Konu axis where the clash happened are supposed to be guarded by the police alone. They are the ones that we intend to hold responsible if there is any increase in pipeline vandalization in those areas.” The High Command is very jittery over the Lagos incident. Another statement from the Abuja Headquarters of the NSCDC yesterday confirmed the killing.
Daily Sun learnt that the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Abubakar and other top police were said to be in discussion with NSCDC boss, Dr Ade Abolurin, to avert a reprisal attack. Emissary of the Force Headquaters were said to have visited NSCDC Abuja office.