Residents of Abule Egba have accused the police of conniving with the vandals that ruptured the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipeline in the area to steal fuel from the facility.
Some of them specifically alleged that policemen, who were informed of the presence of suspected vandals around mid-night in the Abule Egba area, made light of the tip-off before dismissing one of the informants.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that some armed policemen arrived at the area and chased away residents found outside around 11pm shortly before the suspected vandals got to the scene to break the pipeline.
One of the elderly persons living in the area told our correspondent on Friday that some of the vandals were stationed at the open place as decoys to divert the attention of passers-by from those assigned to break the pipes.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the people of the area were saddened by the massive destruction of their property caused by the explosion, which followed the rupture of the pipeline.
He said most of the victims of the explosion knew nothing about the vandalism, adding that similar devastation had occurred in the area 12 years ago.
He said, “Some of the youth told us that some policemen came to this area around 11pm and chased them away under the guise of ensuring security. But not long after that, they said they saw some strange faces, who were suspected to be pipeline vandals.
“Some of the youth went to report to the policemen at the nearby flyover only to discover, on their return, that the vandals were already at work.”
One of the youth, who claimed to have reported the vandals to the policemen, Akeem Balogun, said he saw the vandals but did not know that they were trying to rupture the pipeline at the initial stage.
He said he went to report the suspicious move to the police spotted around the flyover.
Balogun said, “When I got to the police at the Abule Egba Junction, they were asking me some irritating questions. I told them that there were some strange faces over there. They asked if I was an okada rider or Keke Marwa rider and I said no. They eventually sent me away.
“When the fire started, I called the emergency line and the person at the other side of the telephone asked if I had called with my telephone and I answered in the affirmative. I expected them to call me back after giving them the description of the scene of the incident but they didn’t come until around 5am.”
The youth in the area said a politician, identified as Prince Adedipe, popularly known as Ewe, had been arrested by the police in connection with the incident.
The Vice President of the Arowolo Youth Forum, Mr Innocent Amidu, who spoke to our correspondent at the scene alongside other youths, called on the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government to consider compensating those who lost their property to the inferno.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the state police command, Chike Oti, did not return calls to his telephone by our correspondent but the Commissioner of Police in the state, Imohimin Edgal, had, on Wednesday, said the area was notorious for vandalism.
The CP, who visited the scene, was quoted to have said the disaster would have been prevented if information was given to security agencies before the incident happened.