The Lagos State Government yesterday instituted a law suit against the federal government and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), for arresting residents over allegation of pipeline vandalism, which it said, could not be established.
The Director of the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, disclosed this in a statement, where she said the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), had directed her office to initiate the legal action against the federal government and NDCSC.
Rotimi explained that the legal action would challenge the power of the Corps to illegally arrest eight residents of Ejigbo, whose boreholes were turned into oil wells, arising from massive oil pollution in the area without proper investigation.
The NSCDC invaded buildings at No.17 and 30, Aminatu Ilo Street, Ejigbo, 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, thereby seeping the petroleum products into their wells.
But Rotimi said the legal team had visited the affected area to interview the arrested persons while faulting the arrests of the residents were polluted with petroleum substance.
She said Fashola directed that legal action be instituted against the NSCDC, noting that he was totally displeased with the arrest of innocent people and that even though the OPD had secured their release they would claim damages in court.
Rotimi explained that the owners of the two house who claimed that the seepage had been duly reported at the Ejigbo Police Station, when the petroleum products were found coming out of their well.
According to her, the owners claimed the police took them to the NNPC to make an official report of the spillage. “The NNPC came to take samples from the well and sealed it off with the promise that they will return August 26. But the NSCDC came on August 24, to arrest us. All appeals that the matter had been officially reported were rejected.”
She said the former governor of the state, Senator Bola Tinubu and Fashola had written to the federal government in the past on the need for something to be done urgently to protect the pipelines from being ruptured in order to protect the lives of the people living within the vicinity.
Rotimi said despite these letters, nothing “has been done by the federal government to alleviate the difficulties being faced by the residents due to this spillage. It would have been more appropriate for civil defence to have conducted a proper and thorough investigation on the issue rather than to arrest, detain, dehumanise and criminalise these eight people, including a pregnant woman.”
According to her, “this is against jurisprudence and human rights justice. 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.
“The victims, who are victims of oil pollution, should be the ones heading to courts to enforce and exercise their fundamental rights including claiming damages rather than law enforcement agencies harassing them.”
Information from This Day was used in this report.