We sympathise with the people of Arepo community in Ogun State, and indeed Nigerians, on Wednesday’s pipeline fire, which killed more than 100 people. The loss of lives of any number is indeed very sad. For us, this is yet another national disaster to befall our nation.
In the last one month, similar deaths were recorded in Ikorodu, Ijedodo, both in Lagos, and in Bayelsa State, all as a result of the activities of pipeline vandals.
While we commiserate with the nation over the loss of lives in these places, it must be noted that the activities of the vandals were permanently restricted for the period of three months that our men protected the pipelines.
It is no doubt regrettable that in a little more than one month after our men quit the job, more than 200 deaths have been recorded as a result of the activities of pipeline vandals.
While some people condemned our men and called us names, it is on record that nothing of this magnitude happened during the period of the three months that our operatives secured the pipelines. Of particular interest was the comment of the spokesperson of the Lagos chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Joe Igbokwe, in which he referred to our members as hoodlums and outlaws.
The lesson to be learnt in the latest incident by Nigerians and our government is that government should encourage Nigerians with good ideas to be part of governance. All over the world, citizens are encouraged to be partners in progress with the government in order to move the country forward. This is what our organization tried to represent by presenting ourselves as partners in progress with the government.
You will recall that while our men worked at the site of the pipeline in Arepo, even the people of the community had a sense of safety, obviously because the presence of our men in the area. But all that sense of safety is gone with the wind once again, with the return of the vandals.
While security operatives can work to protect the pipelines, but the issue of pipeline protection is much more complex than mere protecting the pipelines. It involves intelligence gathering, which ultimately should involve the people. For sure, this was the strategy that we employed during out time protecting the pipelines. The result of that strategy was our ability to curtail the activities of the vandals.
Unfortunately, because we have placed politics above matters of national importance, the vandals have resumed their nefarious activities, killing and maiming our people, while at the same time denying the nation of huge sum of income that can be used to develop the country.
With the unfortunate upsurge in the activities of pipeline vandals across the country, let all those antagonists who viewed our men as thugs and hoodlums cover their faces in shame. Let them come out now to offer their apologies to Nigerians for this avoidable loss of lives.
However, having said that, it is high time that all hands are put on the deck to find a lasting solution to the incessant and ugly activities of the vandals. Their actions are ill winds that will blow nobody any good.
*Barrister Yinka Oguntimehin,
Director of Media and Publicity, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).