National Coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams has offered an insight into the recent attack on some Yoruba communities in Ogun and Lagos States. In this interview conducted by TUNDE BUSARI, Adams exonerated ‘The Avengers’ in the attacks. Excerpts:
Don’t you see the recent attacks of Lagos and Ogun States communities as a danger to the South-West zone?
It is a danger in the true sense of it. The danger is not even limited to the South-West alone, it is also a danger to the entire country and indeed a national security threat. This is so because of the fact that 70 percent of commercial activities in Nigeria are done in Lagos alone. And if foreign and local investors realise that Lagos is no more safe for their investments, it means there is a problem. Business cannot thrive where there is insecurity. Security is bedrock of any investment while lack of it drives investors away. Nigeria cannot afford to lose investors now the economy is not doing well. There is inflation. Forex policy is killing. Unemployment keeps growing. So,
The public seem to be confused on the identity of the attackers. Are they Niger Delta militants as claimed and even reported?
I am surprised that the media too is glorifying the escapades of these gangs of common criminals. They are criminals who must be treated as criminals. They started out as vandals of pipelines illegally selling fuel to fellow conspirators. They later metamorphosed to kidnappers and ritualists. They are not Niger Delta Avengers or any other groups. They have no focus, no structure and no direction. They don’t have a base but only moving from one riverine community to the other. Whenever they cannot siphon fuel, they come to Lagos to rob banks and highbrow areas. They went to Igbo Olomu and said they would kill 14 people. Under two hours they killed 14 people and escaped. They have their camps at creeks. Unfortunately for them they cannot operate like Niger Delta militants who can attack and hide in swampy areas.
With your knowledge in security matter, didn’t you see the raid by the so-called militants coming?
It is not only me that saw it. The government also saw it and proffered solution to it. Unfortunately, politics killed that solution. The past government saw the danger and gave us a contract in March 2015 to guard the pipelines from Atlas coast to Masin. We moved in and drove the vandals away from the pipelines. We suppressed their activities. We showed to them that they were not invisible. But when we were in full operation, the people in the communities complained. The youth were shouting.
What was the basis of their noise?
You did not know that the people of those communities are collaborators in the illegal acts. They also make a living from it. They buy stolen fuel and sell it to unsuspecting dealers. Some dealers too are in the know. They are also conspirators. These people always shied the vandals whenever we want to engage them. When there was fire accident at Arepo, these same people were the ones burnt to death.
Which approach is best to quell these attacks?
Government knows what to do. The intervention of the military is yielding a good result, telling you that those criminals are just being overhyped. The military has arrived and taken the battle to their camps, killing many of them. This approach is no doubt effective. But recalling what the military did against Boko Haram, we can say government can do better. What they do in the North is the integration of local security groups. They are making use of those who know the terrain very well. That is why the military is making headway. Without sounding patronising, I know the role we are playing under ground to ensure these criminals don’t waste peoples’ life. But we cannot share our intelligence when we are not asked to do so. We need to be approached and acknowledged for that purpose before we do it. OPC has gone beyond being trapped in controversy and tagged trouble maker. We are extremely being careful with what we do. We have come to realise that anything that affects OPC will affect other affiliated organizations like OPU, Olokin Foundation and Gani Adams Foundation. OPU alone has chapters at about 71 countries. Can you now see why we have to be careful in handling issue that affects the public. I am not saying we cannot do anything but we are avoiding a situation we share intelligence with them and they are used against us. Our past experience ought to teach us some lessons in this regard.