Pipeline Vandalism

Defeating pipeline vandals will require a joint effort rivaling the extensive network of the vandals

 

This week, the Army arrested several Boko Haram sympathizers who had been supplying food items to the terrorist group, as well as individuals who were responsible for providing fake ID cards which allowed the terrorist to roam liberally around the country carrying out attacks. The military also rescued a considerable number of kidnapped women and children who were previously Boko Haram captives, and schools in Gwoza were re-opened, which is significant in the fight against terrorism as it is indicative of the gradual elimination of terrorists in North-Eastern Nigeria.

Following last week’s IED attack at the IDP camp, security around the area was increased which later led to the identification of several Boko Haram insurgents who were hiding among the IDPs.

BH Incidents

Despite these successes, there were multiple bomb explosions in Maiduguri this week. Two bombs that were emplaced in a mosque exploded during peak prayer time. One other bomber detonated at a video game center and the last explosion occurred near a business district where people were getting ready to buy dinner.

This shows that despite these successes, members of the public need to stay more vigilant. Report suspicious individuals and remain conscious of your surroundings.

BH Negotiations and De-radicalization

President Buhari mentioned that the Federal Government had begun negotiations with members of Boko Haram, in a bid to secure the release of the Chibok girls. Based on what Boko Haram is demanding, one could conclude it does not look very promising as they are requesting that the government release a member of BH who is a known IED maker in exchange for the Chibok girls. There are many obvious reasons why that is not a viable concession as having an IED maker active in society will unquestionably result in the taking of thousands of innocent lives.

It has however, been suggested that the talks are still informal as Boko Haram’s leadership has not actually picked any individuals to negotiate on their behalf. The main challenge with negotiating with the sect is making sure we are speaking with the right people. This is a legitimate challenge considering the group’s sect leader Abubakar Shekau released an audio message last week claiming Boko Haram was still going strong. Shekau also took care to send greetings to ISIS leader and affirm his loyalty to that terrorist organization. This action could be seen as Shekau’s way of letting ISIS know where BH stands possibly in the hopes of getting some form of assistance from the terrorist group.

There has been a lot of talk about Boko Haram negotiations and deciding what to do with the droves of insurgent surrendering. The thing is the government has to find a way to re-habilitate former Boko Haram members into society. For instance, a number of Boko Haram members were said to have comprised of former street children who were neglected and subsequently found refuge in the group which provided socio-economic benefits such as education and shelter. These children were raised by radical individuals, who taught them a distorted ideology, albeit, giving them a semblance of organization.

Responsively, the FG has begun actions to de-radicalize and re-integrate former Boko Haram insurgents and victims back into society. These members are a reflection of previous government neglect; therefore it is only right for the government to put measures in place such as provision of education, basic amenities, and healthcare, most specifically psychiatric help. Military might alone is not the answer to defeating Boko Haram, a multifaceted approach which encompasses socio-economic and collaborative overture is the way forward.

Former Sierra Leone child soldier Ishmael Beah explained his ordeal as a child soldier saying that they were “brainwashed, drugged and forced to kill”. There was absolute disregard for the value of human life as he explained that “shooting became just like drinking a glass of water”. These individuals did not know any better and were easily manipulated to believe a message of hate.

Ishmael Beah spent 8 months in rehab learning what he had done and readjusting to life after war. Initially he and the other child soldiers in the program were very unruly and destructive.  But the staff members remained patient with them and there was significant progress made in their recovery. Today, Beah now works as a United Nations Ambassador for children affected by war.

The Boko Haram insurgency has brought this problem upon a section of the Nigerian populace and the government must implement a soft handed approach to tackle it.

AREPO

News reports surfaced this week that about 10 DSS operatives were killed and their bodies stolen, by pipeline vandals in Konu area of Ikorodu, returing from Arepo creeks. According to some police sources, the policemen in the division were unaware that the DSS operatives were coming to that area. So the police source claims when they heard sporadic gunshots that lasted for some minutes, they just assumed it was the rampaging vandals.

Petroleum pipeline vandalization around Arepo, Ogun state has been an ongoing issue.  In fact, I stumble upon an old report detailing the Arepo pipeline explosion back in January 2013. In that incident, vandals blew up a major pipeline. The arrested vandals in connection with this incident confessed that they were obeying the orders of their leaders who were looking to frustrate the security effort of the police. The suspects claimed they learnt that NNPC was mounting a security platform close to the creeks and “that would be bad business for them”. It was then agreed that they should thwart the effort. On that fateful day, the vandals siphoned their petroleum products and threw a lit cigarette at the ruptured portion of the pipeline, causing the massive explosion.

A more recent incident occurred on August 30, 2015, when pipeline vandals operating in the same vicinity killed 4 policemen and took away the corpses. According to news reports, the police intercepted tankers of stolen fuel. The pipeline vandals “settled the policemen”, and then members of the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) later came to make their own demands. When the vandals said they could not meet the monetary demands, the SARS officers seized the tanker. The vandals then left, mobilized themselves and came back opening fire on the SARS officers. One officer who escaped reported the incident to the police station. One of the slain officer’s was said to hail from the same place as the vandals. He also apparently knew many of the vandals.

One might ask are these pipeline vandals’ geniuses that they are able to not just circumvent security networks in the area, but now recently, take down a whole team of DSS agents who are one of the most extensively trained security personnel in the country.

The vandals are not geniuses, but they have been able to create an extensive and effective network of early warning systems, petroleum industry and security personnel informants. There are reports that some residents, commercial motorcyclists, and traders in the Arepo and Ikorodu area serve as “early warning systems” for the vandals. These individuals provide advance warning to the pipeline vandals of any incoming security personnel.

Receiving such warnings would normally lead to the criminals packing up and scurrying away, but to the pipeline vandals, it means time to suit up, mobilize, and assume an offensive stance. The vandals are also said to have informants within NNPC who notify them when petroleum products are to be pumped through the Arepo pipelines. The vandals have even managed to partner with some law enforcement officials. These security officials also pass on information to the criminals, while some are simply happy to close their eyes to the crime as long as they are “taken care of”.

The vandals are clad in official security and military uniforms which they presumably obtain when they whisk away the bodies of security personnel they execute. In the case of the DSS operatives, there are fears that the agent’s assault rifles may now be in possession of the vandals

Joint Effort

The police assigned to the law enforcement area claim they were unaware of any DSS operation that was taking place. While it is understandable that the DSS may want to keep information about upcoming operations in the area away from compromised policemen who may be informants for the vandals, the agency needs to improve its information sharing with other security agencies.

Gone are the days where one entity decides it alone can solve any criminal challenge. In this particular instance, the eradication of pipeline vandals will need to be a joint effort comprising of those tasked specifically with pipeline protection. All hands need to be on deck, the Navy, Nigerian  Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), SARS, DSS and the local police have to work together to make this work. If working with compromised security personnel is an intelligence sharing deterrent, perhaps official re-deployments and re-shuffling should take place.

This joint effort must also include the local populace who are weary of the constant death and violence plaguing their community. Although, the locals currently fear reprisal from the vandals if they help security personnel, they also have vital information that could help security agents, better understand the operations and devise an effective plan to bring this lawless zone in control.

This incident has gotten the attention of all security decision makers and given the nation a glimpse into the gravity of power of these vandals who have been allowed to operate unimpeded in Arepo. A joint strategic action plan should be implemented, and this menace should be rid from society once and for all.

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