Godwin Nwachukwu was the Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in charge of personnel and staff matters in Abuja, before his redeployment as the head of the Bayelsa State Command. In this interview with PAULINE ONYIBE, he bares his mind on sundry issues. Excerpts.
Could you list some of your achievements since your resumption in Bayelsa State?
I have just spent about two months here, I was in Abuja as the commandant in charge of personnel and staff matters in the country. Since I arrived Bayelsa, I have achieved a lot in the area of community settlement because it has to do with our work. By the mandate of our job as contained in the act establishing the NSCDC, we are empowered to man national assets and infrastructure; all the pipelines and other national properties scattered throughout the federation. As such, my men are guiding and protecting them so that they are not vandalised.
Sometimes, the communities where some of these pipelines passed, usually have one or two devastation on them caused by human beings and this usually gives problem. Of course when a pipeline is vandalised, the product that comes out of it causes serious health hazard and as such we are manning all these things. And sometimes when all these things happen, the community is either in confrontation with the oil companies that have all these facilities so we usually come in to intervene and mediate. I have done that in many of communities.
Apart from that, our main job centres on making sure that the petroleum products are highly protected in terms of making sure that adulterated petroleum product are not pushed into the town so that people using them will not get exposed to unnecessary danger. If you recall, sometime ago, we had issues of kerosene explosion in homes, vehicle got damaged at random. All these arose as a result of adultrated material being used. Those who are doing it may not know but in the long run, the same public suffers the effect of the handiwork of these disgruntled elements.
However, to push our work further, we have on many occasion arrested some suspects. Some are awaiting trial in the law court, others are still under investigation. We are equally trying to bring sanity into the system, making sure that what the government has provided in terms of standard petroleum product is adhered to strictly. The deviation from the standard means inviting calamity. In the process of doing our work, we make sure that the right materials are delivered to the people.
Have you enjoyed necessary supports from the federal and state governments in the fight against pipeline vandalism?
To be honest, I am always happy whenever Governor Henry Seriake Dickson says that Bayelsa seems to be the safest state and that he has zero tolerance for crimes and criminality. I am always in love with him each time he mentions this in many fora we have been.
The state is supporting us. On many occasions, I have heard him advising Bayelsans to desist from act that may be inimical to the state security. That is support and I quite appreciate that. They are giving us nice supports, at least there is a good relationship. There is synergy and cooperation with the government. With that he is giving us a long way to operate as security operatives.
What is the synergy between your organisation and the DPR over the war on illegal fuel price hike?
We are synergising properly with the Department of Petroleum Resources. We have paid them a courtesy visit and they have equally done the same. It is a joint operation, they call us whenever they are going for operations and we followed them. Sanity must be introduced into the petroleum product business.
Of course you know what is happening, human beings are not satiable, there is always the tendency to commit one crime or the other. Otherwise, there is no need for people to adjust their machines to dispense the appropriate quantity of fuel, where a standard had been provided and a pump price had been fixed.
That is equal to wickedness, we will join hands to make sure that this is controlled as well as making sure that the right petrol is actually delivered to filling stations where our people can buy the correct products and be safe in their various homes.
What efforts are you making to further curb bunkering?
We do a kind of reorientation because some people have the mindset to commit crime but when we conscientise and reorientate them, they realise that what they are doing is not proper and that bunkering is very disadvantageous to the society. Above all, in the process, many have lost their lives. So, we have made them to realise that.
Some of the parents who have looked inwards have started to catch them young by telling them the disadvantages of getting involved in such inhuman activities. By that, it is bringing down the dastardly act coupled with the fact that we have not been sparing them. Whenever we catch them, we don’t spare them because we don’t compromise. They can testify to this. The fear of us catching them is enough to stop some of them from delving into it as an adventure.
Are you not supposed to give the same reorientation to your men who are always intimidating civilians that they are supposed to protect?
Please let me correct an impression, there is no intimidation whatsoever. I will regard it as one of the issues of public not knowing what the job of NSCDC entails.
In that process, whenever you want to carry out your duty, possibly they see it as against their wish and there is a little resistance. But because my people have been trained properly in terms of arms handling and knowing very well that we are dealing with civilians, we are very civil in every of our activities.
Of course you know that crime is one thing that is against security. So whenever they come together, there is a little brush. At the back of our mind, we know we are dealing with the public because we deal with the remotest grassroots security and we know that we interact with individuals in the remotest areas.
We are very careful and we wouldn’t like some of them to prevent us from doing our work. In the process of reaching a compromise, they see it as if we are against them, we are not. We are only helping to maintain sanity in the society.
How do you interact with those in the creeks to enlighten them on the dangers of pipeline vandalism?
That is one of the challenges we are having. An NGO recently paid a courtesy visit to our office and that is exactly what we are planning to do. We want to carry the message to the creek where some of these things are happening. Because of the nature of the terrain, we are handicapped, but we will get there. So, that all of us will be on the same page to solve this cankerworm that is eating into the debris of this nation.
The Navy is always in the creeks. Can’t you partner with them, the JTF and airforce?
To be honest, when I arrived Bayelsa, one of the things that I appreciated most was the synergy existing among the sister agencies. It is on the maximum. There is always this consultation. I remember two months ago, when we had a course, based on the information we got, we consulted the people in charge of the river, the Navy and from time to time, there is always assistance. Whenever we need them, they are always available, the level of synergy and collaboration is appreciative.
Have you heard that some oil companies use your officials to victimize the locals and that some of these bunkerers are untouchable?
No! This is a very wrong impression. The oil companies we are protecting appreciate what we do and even the community too. We protect their facilities and products. It is just some disgruntled elements, a limited few that may be working with some cabals that are master minding the breakage. Those are the few people we are against.
Apart from that, what we are doing to the community is appreciated. What we are doing on behalf of the oil companies and others who are the owners of the pipelines, are quite appreciated. We are making effort, just like I told you, criminals don’t like people stopping them from their activities.
But sooner than later, we will make them realise the mistake they are making. and we are not aware of any untouchable. If you know any one, tell us, we will get the person arrested.
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