Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola has ordered the Office of the Public Defender, OPD, to take legal action against the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, for illegally arresting eight residents of Ejigbo whose wells were contaminated by petroleum products that seeped from oil pipeline in the area.
The NSCDC recently invaded buildings at 17 and 30, Aminatu Ilo Street, and arrested eight persons, including a pregnant woman, on the allegation that they dug their well to the level of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline which runs through Ejigbo area, so that some of the fuel running through the pipes would flow into their wells. The NSCDC was alleged to have denied the lawyers of their suspects have access to them, and also refused to verify the claims of the arrested persons from the Police because of the feud between the NSCDC command and the Police.
Due to the illegal arrest and dehumanisation of the residents, more so, the Depot Manager of the Ejigbo Depot of the NNPC said the residents reported the oil spill to the corporation, Fashola ordered OPD to take legal action against the NSCDC to claim damages for the affected people.
He frowned at the indiscriminate arrest of innocent people by the Civil Defence officials.
A team of the OPD, led by its Director, Mrs Omotola Rotimi, visited the affected area on Monday to interact with the people arrested by NSCDC.
While on the visit, she faulted the arrest of the residents and relations of the families living in the two houses at Aminatu Ilo Street.
She said Fashola directed the OPD to take up legal action against the NSCDC, adding that the OPD has since secured the release of the arrested persons.
The OPD director spoke with the owners of the two houses who claimed that they notified the police at the Ejigbo Police Station when they noticed that petrol was in their well instead of water.
They further claimed that the police took them to NNPC to make an official report of the pollution, adding that the NNPC came to take samples from the well and sealed it off with the promise that they would return on Monday, 26 August, 2013 only for NSCDC to arrest them on Saturday, 24 August, and that all appeals to NSCDC that the matter had been officially reported to the appropriate quarters fell on deaf ears.
Rotimi said the former state Governor, Bola Tinubu and the incumbent Governor, Babatunde Fashola had written to the Federal Government to urgently prevent the pipelines from rupture in order to protect the lives of the people living within their vicinity.
“Despite these letters, nothing has been done by NNPC or the Federal Government. It would have been more appropriate for NSCDC to have conducted a proper and thorough investigation on the issue rather than to arrest, detain, dehumanize and criminalize these eight people, including a pregnant woman.
“This is against jurisprudence and human rights. These people are the victims, whose homes livestock and crops have been destroyed due to the pollution of their wells and environment. Their health is also at risk,” she said.
According to her, “they should be the ones heading to courts to enforce and exercise their fundamental rights including claiming damages rather than law enforcement agencies harassing them.”