Operatives of the Nigerian Navy, Beecroft have arrested two Benin Republic nationals and three others, after they were alleged to have vandalised a pipeline in Makoko area of the state.
Recovered from the suspects were 270 jerricans filled with siphoned petroleum products.
The Beninoise, however, denied being vandals. They said they were fishermen who fished in Nigeria’s waters in company of some Nigerians.
The Base Operations Officer, Commander Tanko Lengaya, who paraded the suspects before newsmen yesterday explained that the suspects were arrested in the early hours of Saturday following a tip-off.
“Patrol boats were immediately deployed from Atlas Cove in the process of which the suspects were intercepted at Makoko area in two canoes loaded with 270 50-litre jerricans filled with the siphoned products and 49 empty jerricans,” he said.
Speaking further, he said, preliminary investigation revealed that the suspects were working with vandals who, after siphoning the product, would hand them over to the arrested suspects for onward sales to ready buyers.
He said the suspects and the exhibits would be handed over either to the police or officials of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
In their defense, the suspects claimed they were fishermen who were compelled by some vandals to take the products to the shore.
One of the suspects, 27-year-old Joten Seigi from Cotonou, Benin Republic, “I came from Cotonou to fish in Nigeria. On that fateful day, I was in the company of two of my friends, Segun and Victor, when we saw some people on the sea.
“We had not even caught any fish on that day. The people told us to help them take the filled jerricans to the shore, saying they would pay us N5,000. We were tempted by the amount since we had not made any money. Barely had we loaded the boat and were on our way to the shore that we were rounded up by some Naval personnel.
“My regret is that my parents back home are not aware of my whereabouts. I did not even get the money promised at the end of the day. The worst part is that those who gave us the products are nowhere to be found, thereby leaving us to our fate.”
Another suspect, Bambou Oritshebinone from Ondo State, said he would not have been arrested but for greed.
“I own the engine while Victor owns the boat. I usually rent my engine out for N2,000. But when Victor told me he would pay N5,000, I thought he had a lucrative business he wanted to do. So, I told him I must join him in the deal, even though he resisted initially.
“I thought I could get more than the amount he promised to pay if I joined him. When we got to the sea and started loading the filled jerricans into my boat, I decided to increase the price to N7,000 which they agreed, only to be arrested mid way. Had I known, I would have remained in my house.”