Segun James in Yenagoaâ€¨
The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield, has said that it lost nine men during its operations in the Niger Delta in 2012.
The task force said it lost the men by daring illegal oil bunkerers, pirates and sea robbers who sometimes engage them in armed combat.
The task force commander, Maj. Gen. Johnson Ochoga, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the activities of the command in the last one year, saying despite this, it made some achievements within the period.
Ochoga also disclosed that the security outfit in the past one year destroyed a total of 4,349 illegal refineries in the nine oil producing states in the Niger Delta region.
According to him, other challenges faced by the command are support by the people of oil bearing communities to oil thieves and their foreign sponsors who engaged in illegal bunkering.
Ochoga said in the course of the year, the JTF arrested 1,945 suspects, impounded barges, vessels, trucks and other tools used by bunkerers.
“In the last 12 months, 7,585 anti-illegal bunkering patrols have been conducted. A total of 1,945 suspects were arrested while 4,349 illegal refineries were destroyed. Also destroyed are 133 barges, 1,215 Cotonou boats, 187 tankers trucks, 178 illegal fuel dumps as well as 5,574 surface tanks.”
He called for the cooperation of stakeholders, community leaders and law abiding citizens in carrying out its duties and revealed that the prospects for crude oil production, tourism, power generation and petrochemical and allied industries abound.
Ochoga insisted that JTF would continue to destroy seized crude in safe areas to discourage the activities of illegal bunkering in the region, stressing that the outfit was mindful of the environmental hazards in the destruction of crude oil.
“In order to carry out effective protection of oil and gas facilities, we conducted reconnaissance of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline networks. Subsequently, air and ground patrols are regularly carried out to deter vandals from sabotaging the pipelines. This facilitated the regular pumping of products by the NNPC from Port Harcourt to Aba depot.”
The JTF boss noted that the operatives also destroyed some militant camps at Oron,Akwa Ibom State,Ikang,Cross River State, as well as abandoned militant camps at Foropa in Bayelsa State and Ojoma creek and Ferepakama community in Rivers State.
Ochoga regretted that one of the challenges faced by the JTF was the slow pace in the dispensation of justice for oil theft suspects, as he called for a special court for the prosecution of oil thieves.