Four residents of Badagry, Lagos State, have been arrested by operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for allegedly dealing in illegal oil bunkering.
It was learnt that the suspects – Unkpe Avoseh, 38; Okunnu Foton, 45; Atori Nichoy, 49; and a 32-year-old Beninoise, Semevo Hogastean – were arrested around the Seme Border on Sunday.
174 jerrycans of petrol, with 30-litre each, were recovered from the suspects.
The product was said to have been stolen from the pipelines of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Our correspondent was told that the suspects had wanted to exploit the festive period to smuggle the fuel out of the country, thinking security would be relaxed at that time.
However, the suspects, at the NSCDC Lagos Command headquarters in Ikeja on Tuesday, denied their involvement in illegal oil bunkering.
Avoseh, who hails from Oyo State, said he was a load carrier and had disembarked from a bus when he was arrested.
He said, “I don’t know anything about it. I carry goods like garri, beans and vegetables at Seme Market. I was standing at a bus stop around the area when the NSCDC officials came and ordered me to enter into their vehicle.”
Foton, an indigene of Lagos State, said he and his friend, Nichoy, had gone for the Easter celebration at Kweme, Badagry, on a motorcycle, adding that they were arrested as they wanted to refuel the motorcycle at a filling station around 12am.
Faton said, “As we entered the MRS Filling Station, we saw an officer, who told us an operation was ongoing and asked us to go back. As we wanted to leave, another officer blocked us. He asked us to turn off the engine of the motorcycle and he collected the key. He asked us to sit with four others. Later, two persons were released. We don’t know anything about illegal oil bunkering. I am a network marketer.”
Nichoy stated that he was forced to pose beside the seized fuel despite his insistence that he was innocent of the crime.
The fourth suspect, Hogastean, said, “I was going to Seme on a motorcycle with the plan of borrowing money from a relative for the funeral of my father-in-law on Thursday. My fuel got finished and I went to the filling station with a five-litre jerrycan to buy N500 fuel.
“The NSCDC men collected the jerrycan and the money from me. They said I was among those who engaged in illegal oil bunkering, which I have never done in my life.”
But the Lagos State NSCDC Commandant, Tajudeen Balogun, said the command had “enough” evidence to prosecute the suspects, adding that the fuel would be handed over to the NNPC.
He said, “The suspects were apprehended with 174 jerrycans of 30 litres fuel each. A Mazda car, with number plate, LSD 916 EF, was also seized. The corps will not rest on its oars until it eradicates oil theft and other forms of economic sabotage in the country.”