Military Onslaught Against Pipeline Vandals Continues In Lagos, Ogun

 Military Onslaught Against Pipeline Vandals Continues In Lagos, Ogun

nigerian-armyIn a bid to flush out the pipeline oil thieves operating at Isawo, Igando and Igbo-Olomu areas of Ikorodu in Lagos, and Arepo, Awawa, Elepete and Ibafo areas of Ogun State, the joint military forces have sustained an offensive against the oil theft cartel by bombing the area.
In an operation tagged ‘Operation Awatse’, (Hausa word for scatter), the military’s joint task force had at midnight on Thursday launched an aerial bombardment of the vandals’ enclaves, camps and hideouts.
The Joint Task Force comprises members of the Nigerian Navy (NN), the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Nigerian Army (NA), alongside the Department of State Security Services (DSS), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
The offensive was due to the increasing cases of kidnapping, rape, acts of vandalism and armed robbery operations continuously being perpetrated by the vandals, who always come out of their enclaves to terrorize civilians in the respective communities.
In Ishawo, cases of kidnapping abound especially that of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastor and the recent abduction of the Oba of Iba, Oba Goriola. Fighter jets were deployed, attack helicopters and Alpha jets, not just to bomb the area, but as a show of force. When the intensive aerial bombardment began at midnight, pandemonium erupted as residents of the area thought the militants had struck.
Addressing journalists yesterday at the conference hall of the Western Naval Command (WNC), the Flag Officer Commanding, WNC, Rear Admiral Bobai Ducas Ferguson, said the offensive would continue until the vandals are sent out.
Given that the Operation Awatse has intensified efforts to clear out the enclave permanently, Bobai said they would still go beyond that to get to the chief sponsors of the vandals, to know who armed them with the heavy-duty weapons they were toting.
He said: “Last month, we got a directive from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin, to carry out an operation in Arepo and dismantle the vandals’ camps scattered around Ishawo in Ikorodu, Ibafo and Arepo in Ogun State. Initially, we were directed not to use air power but when we carried out an assessment of the area, the vandals had moved from accessible areas to the mangroves. We got back to the CDS on how to take out the target through air power and we were directed to do a general assessment and deploy attack helicopters.
“But before then, we were in touch with Lagos and Ogun State Governments because the Areas of Responsibility (AOR) was within their domain.
“First, we deployed a surveillance aircraft to go see the area and we analyzed the videos and pinpointed the areas to be destroyed.
“The revelation from the video showed that a lot of pipeline vandalism was taking place in the area. We could see loads of jerry cans chained together in the area.
“The inaccessibility of the area helped their trade. Aside the fact that the water is shallow, they also cut down trees and blocked the waterways.
He further revealed: “On Thursday, we initiated action and we knocked down some. Later, the surveillance aircraft went up for another video surveillance to survey the area.
“In the video, one of the canoes had a GPMG gun and the interpretation is that what is happening there is well-planned, given how well armed they are.
“After the aerial bombardment, we will comb the area. Already, the Army, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the police have been able to identify the getaway routes and we have blocked it.
“The water component, which is the navy, has blocked the escape routes, too. Also, we have blocked the escape route at Abeokuta, Ogun State.”
Bobai, however, said one of the major challenges the military offensive is facing is the weather.
He said: “The weather is one of the major challenges because the clouds are low. So, the helicopter is finding it difficult to manoeuver. However, we will continue our offensive.”
On the casualty figures, the FOC said that is yet to be ascertained because the military is yet to get access to the area, adding that it would only be possible after the aerial bombardment.
Regarding possible arrests, he said the arrested vandals would be profiled, investigated and interrogated in order to get to the source of sponsorship for the cartel.


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