THE Commissioner for Information, Lagos State, Gbenga Omotosho on Tuesday says the recent invasion of Tarkwa Bay and other nearby communities was incited by the discovery of economic sabotage and petroleum siphoning committed by residents.
Omotosho speaking to The ICIR in a telephone interview, noted that contrary to the popular perception of dislodging residents of the community from their homes, information by the military revealed that residents had built their homes on wells, thus, siphoning petroleum content.
“The NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) I was told was scandalised when its output was going down and was worried and didn’t know what was going on.
“It had to investigate and upon investigation, it discovered that fuel was being siphoned in so many places along that line and even noticed they were not supposed to be there.
“The pictures and videos that I saw had wells in their homes, syphoning fuels from such wells, and the government had to move against them. It was an act of economic sabotage and that was why the government moved in,” Omotosho said.
The commissioner who noted that siphoning was a big issue to the federal government said “if you are moving against suspected economic sabotage, you don’t begin to issue notice”, confirming residence were given no prior notice for evacuation.
Also, Omotosho told this newspaper, the said community was not healthy for residence because it is against the Right of Way for a petroleum pipeline.
“The latest I heard was that that place wasn’t even meant to be a residential area because you could see where the wells were excavated, right inside places where people call rooms, you have wells,” he said.
He further disclosed that most of the residents were Non-Nigerians. “As soon as the military came, they jumped unto the water and fled,” Omotosho said.
The commissioner who said the issue was not a Lagos State affair, said although the state had sent a team there to find out what was going on, “I haven’t seen the report from them”.
When asked if Lagos had agencies with the onus of ensuring places with crossed pipelines are prevented, Omotosho said the admitted such existed but the state had been destroying shanties “and we will keep developing”.
He said such places are hideout to perpetuate this economic sabotage.
“So when the military goes in there to deal with them, people now begin to talk about a human right, access to shelter – We have to differentiate criminality from rurality, you don’t condole illegality,” he said.
However, residents of the evicted communities had taken to the street to protest over the demolition exercise along coastal lines.
They had matched to the office of the governor in Alausa on Tuesday bemoaning their grievances on the incident.
Reacting to that the commissioner said “That is a good idea, it is in the spirit of democracy. If they feel that they have a point, they can protest”.
Omotosho noted that by protesting, the government will demand evidence, and if found to have been unjustly demolished would be duly compensated.
On January 21, residents of Tarkwa Bay island were rendered homeless following the forceful ejection from the community by the Navy and Military personnel.