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Civil Defence Corp arrests fuel thieves at River Niger bank, uncovers police bid to free culprits

Posted by By Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka on 2007/12/29 | Views: 973 |

Civil Defence Corp arrests fuel thieves at River Niger bank, uncovers police bid to free culprits


For dubious businessmen who specialized in carrying out bunkering on the banks of River Niger in Onitsha , Anambra State, it was a difficult moment for them penultimate week as eagle-eyed Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officials from the Anambra State Command swooped on them.

For dubious businessmen who specialized in carrying out bunkering on the banks of River Niger in Onitsha , Anambra State, it was a difficult moment for them penultimate week as eagle-eyed Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officials from the Anambra State Command swooped on them.

The NSCDC officers made a big haul as two tankers loaded with fuel and the people conveying them to their illegal owners were arrested and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

But the NSCDC arrests did not come easily as its men were said to have been harassed by the police who allegedly were giving the bunkerers cover.
In one of the cases that took place on December 10, 2007, the men of the NSCDC and the Petroleum Task Force of Anambra State have had a showdown over alleged attempt to allow the vandals escape.

Speaking with Daily Sun on the arrest and difficulties encountered by his men, the state Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. David U. Bille, warned those involved in vandalisation of public property like PHCN installations, petroleum products to quit Anambra State as his men were ready to make them pay for their sins.
He spoke on the two arrests, the state governmentís donations of vehicles to his command and their readiness to perform their duties well. Excerpt:

Arrest of the first tanker
My men during an anti-vandalism surveillance duties on December 10, 2007 monitored the activities of vandals at Odekpe Atani Road in Ogbaru LGA and about 10:30hrs, a boat carrying tanks loaded with suspected vandalized petroleum products was seen along side a police speed boat from Bayelsa/Rivers states direction to a point where the boat anchored at the River Niger bank near the First Lion Oil Petrol Station situated by the bank of the river which the vandals use as depot.
Later, the police mounted a road block near the Lion fuel station. In the night, the boat moved directly behind the Lion Petrol Station and started discharging into tankers stationed inside the fuel station.
From there, one of the tankers moved out in the early hours of Tuesday and our team was able to trail the tanker out of that area. In the process, they now observed the pick-up van of the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) excorting the tanker.
So, I now dispatched my operational men with my pick-up van from Awka to move ahead so they can intercept them.
In that process, when our team now intercepted the tanker, the SARS team now said that they are members of the Petroleum Task Force, so we now agreed jointly that we will escort the tanker to the Government House where the Petroleum Task Force is. So, on arrival at the Government House, my men withdrew and we kept vigilance on the truck.
Unfortunately, the following day, around 6:00p.m, we saw the trailer coming out of the Government House, heading towards Onitsha; we decided to mobilize and intercept it after Amawbia round about. We demanded for the waybill and clearance; they presented a fake waybill.
The driver confirmed to us that they have settled with the Task Force, so we arrested them and came back.
Upon our interrogation, the driver told us that the waybill does not belong to him, that it was a kind of arrangement among them.
I have written a letter to His Excellency, on what exactly happened and requested him to take a second look at the activities of the committee.

Second tanker
On the arrest of the second tanker, which was about 5:30p.m on Thursday, December 13, 2007, I got a call that they were loading again at another point on the same River Niger bank, so, I asked my men to move again and see how they can track them down.
So, they followed them down to Oba, where they intercepted it and took it down to our office here about 11:00p.m.
Though he said he would not reveal some of the useful statements of the driver and the two people arrested with him, Bille gave the number of the second tanker as Anambra XA419ATN, noting that it loaded at the River Niger bank behind Pokobros factory off Attani Road, Harbour Independence Layout.

Government reaction
However, when Daily Sun contacted the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Emeka Ojukwu (Jnr), under whose office the Petroleum Task Force is, he said that his men released the trailer after looking at the papers and believing that they were genuine.
His words:

"The matter had come to my attention.
I heard the story as you just told it to me. I called in the leaders of the task force to ask them precisely what happened that day. The story I was told was that there was a tanker that was impounded by them and that the Civil Defence men were trailing them and that at the point of impounding the vehicle, there was a disagreement in terms of who was going to impound the vehicle that was later resolved, and the Petroleum Task Force took possession of the vehicle and impounded it.
"Typically, when they do that, they had to take a look at the document, the waybill and all that to ascertain if there is any illegal activity going on. If there is any problem with the product, they take a sample to the DPR for testing.
"In this case, they came to me and said that they were later presented with a document and they took a look at it and were satisfied that it was genuine. The document being genuine, according to them, they released the vehicle, I said okay.
"Subsequently, I was told that the Civil Defence later caught up with the same truck and found that there were, indeed, some illegalities with the documentation. In my view, if that happened, good, itís good that they were rearrested.
"Itís not good, however, that our men were not able to find out that there was a problem with the documentation. Hence, they will have to take a closer look at documents . I have instructed them to look a little deeper into the paper work, the content and everything before deciding whether or not they should release a vehicle.
"I am happy that the Civil Defence found that there was a problem and has arrested the people who are contravening the law".

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