• As JTF warns new militant group
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Following a recent pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari to treat oil pipelines vandalism in the Niger Delta region like Boko Haram terrorists, Nigeria’s security chiefs yesterday visited the region and vowed to carry out the president’s order to the letter.
The visit also took place on a day the Joint Task Force (JTF) in an operation codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, warned Niger Delta Avengers, a new militant group which has claimed responsibility for the destruction of oil platforms in the region, to stay off its track or get crushed.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, and several top military officials who visited Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on a fact-finding mission, noted that at least ten areas of security breaches which have been identified would be receiving the attention of the security agencies shortly.
The identified threats included pipeline vandalism, oil theft, kidnapping, cultism and other unnamed criminalities.
Olonisakin particularly noted that the Nigerian military forces were battle-ready to deal with the issues in the Niger Delta region, and vowed to strengthen the capacity of the military to carry out the operation.
“The President and Commander-in-Chief had given a strategic direction, and we must ensure that these directives are carried out to the letter. I have come in company of the Chief of Naval Staff to also address some of these issues”, the defence chief said.
The CDS, who was taken round the JTF headquarters in the state, by the Commander of Operation Pulo Shield, Maj.-Gen Alani Okunlola, said Buhari had directed that all identified security threats in the Niger Delta region must be decisively dealt with.
As a precursor to the operation, Olonisakin noted that the visit was to assess the challenges of the troops with a view to addressing them to ensure operational effectiveness in dealing with the threats.
He added, “I am in Yenagoa on operational visit to Operation Pulo Shield as well as the Boat House vessel we have in Akassa. It is such that we can understand the challenges they are facing here and address these challenges to enhance their operational effectiveness and efficiency.
“In doing that we have listened to all they have said concerning the challenges and we shall go back and address some of these challenges so that they can do their jobs much better than they have done in the past.
“The issue here is that we have a lot of security threats in this area; they are about 10 to be precise, and we have identified all these areas from illegal oil bunkering to oil theft to pipeline vandalism to kidnapping to cultism and all the other oil and gas related criminalities.
“We have looked into that and are ensuring that these issues are properly addressed and we have zero tolerance to militancy and other oil and gas criminalities in the region”, he noted.
Similarly, the JTF, the security outfit responsible for fighting pipelines vandalism and associated crimes in the Niger Delta has vowed to resist any attempt to worsen the security situation in the region, following statements made by the new militants group.
“The Operation Pulo Shield which is saddled with the mandate of protecting Nigerian oil pipelines and preventing other oil related crimes hereby reiterate its resolve to crackdown on vandals and economic saboteurs and also ensure the arrest of perpetrators and accomplices for prosecution.
“Anybody or group masquerading as militants are criminals will be resisted and crushed in line with the mandate of the Joint Force in Niger Delta. The Federal Government of Nigeria granted amnesty to repentant agitators and the grant automatically ends militancy and agitation in the region. Any group or persons by whatever guise will be treated like common criminals.
“The Forces have carried out aggressive patrols and surveillances within the waterways and the creeks which have led to the arrest of suspects, arms and ammunition, illegal oil bunkering vessels and barges which are at various stages of prosecution in Nigerian courts of competent jurisdiction.
“The Commander, Major General Alani Okunlola wishes to use this medium to call on the so-called Niger Delta Avengers to have a rethink and desist from doing anything that will make them cross the path of Operation Pulo Shield.
“We also warn other criminals operating in the region to be ready to face the consequences of their action, as the Joint Force is ready to flush them out of the region. The Command hereby calls on opinion and community leaders to advise their subjects especially the youths on the dangers of engaging in any act capable of undermining the security and economy of the country.
“Youths should engage themselves meaningfully to help themselves and the society and avoid any act capable of ruining their future. The Command also wishes to assure Niger Delta residents of Operation Pulo Shield’s determination to wipe out all acts of illegalities in the region while calling on them to come up with useful information that will aid the Joint Force in its Operations.
“The Commander also assures the good people of the region that the Joint Force is on top of the situation and will soon round up the criminals and bring them to justice”, a statement signed by the JTF’s spokesman, Col. Isa Ado, noted.