Protesting N/Delta Youths Demand Removal of JTF Commander, Suleiman Apochi

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·         Military commander blames businessman   

·         Aiteo: We have paid JTF N1.192 bn in 3 years for pipeline protection

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos
 

Hundreds of youths from the Niger Delta region yesterday stormed Abuja to protest alleged wrong doings of Commander of the military task force, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman in the area.

While Apochi denied the allegations and rather accused Chief Executive of Aiteo, an oil company, Mr. Benedict Peters of masterminding the protest, an insider with Aiteo claimed and backed up with documents that they had paid the military over N1 billion in three years to guard their facilities without any effect.

The protesters, who accused Suleiman of being neck-deep in illegal activities especially in the oil sector, demanded an immediate removal of the naval Officer as the Commander of the Special Task Force (STF) in the Niger Delta. 

Led by a coalition of Niger Delta Civil Society activists and the Niger Delta environmental protection group, the protesters alleged that military chief was aiding and abating oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing in the area. 

They carried placards bearing different inscriptions such as: “Please Save Nigerian Economy from the hands of Apochi and his oil bunkerer friends; EFCC please save Niger Delta and arrest Chief Bunkerer of Nigeria Apochi Suleiman and his bribe collector, Dagogo Gilbert; Apochi sabotaging the Chief of Defence Staff Anti-vandalism and Bunkering Programme in the Niger Delta among others. 

Addressing a press conference, the Joint Coordinator of the group, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, said their action was informed by the worsening case of economic sabotage, oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing in the region. 

“Today, under the very watchful eyes of Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, more illegal refineries and bunkering hubs have sprang up and continued to be operated by oil criminals in Bonny, Nembe, Kula and Bille communities in Bayelsa and Rivers states who have continued to unleash economic sabotage and environmental problems in the Niger Delta. 

”Today, things have worsened in the region and as we address you now, the Igbomorotu corridor in the Southern Ijaw as well as the Akasa flank on the Atlantic fringe of Brass have continued to be a major hub of the illicit operation and is now virtually taken over by crude oil criminals,” he said 

Ohazurike, claimed that about 300,000 barrels of crude oil was stolen every day from facilities in the region by the oil thieves. He explained that Apochi had turned a blind eye on this because he was benefitting from it.

“Today, things have worsened in the region and as we address you now, the Igbomorotu corridor in southern Ijaw as well as the Akasa flank on the Atlantic fringe of Brass have continued to be a major hub of the illicit operation and is now virtually taken over by crude oil criminals.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are now in the hands of criminal non-state actors who are currently amassing arms and ammunition with the potential threat to our national security,” said Ohazurike.

According to Apochi when contacted said that Aiteo was behind the recent protest  and attacks –  allegations that he is behind the bunkering activities. . 
However, the indigenes in the communities along the NCTL scoffed at the claim saying  he Apochi knows he is not telling the truth. “He is a chameleon who should be prosecuted.”  They raised the following poser:  “How can JTF claim to be in a location and merchant vessels that are capable of carrying between 2,000 and 5,000 tons of product ( 15,000 to, 35,000 barrels) of crude oil, will sail into Nigerian waters through the creeks without NPA approval, without Customs entry, without Naval clearance,  and lift crude oil under the watch of JTF and Apochi, who is supposed to be in charge of that area is claiming ignorance?  Common!”

According to THISDAY checks, the community was recently contracted by Aiteo to watch these pipelines for the country owing to incessant breaches and theft of the nation’s crude right under the nose of  Apochi’s JTF, declared Okodun Priye.

“All Apochi’s men are doing is stopping the community  from  patrolling and protecting pipeline when those vessels sail to carry out their nefarious  criminal stealing of  the nation’s crude oil. They do this  in order to prevent their illegal operations from being seen and reported.”   Sources from the communities who don’t want to be named  but are  directly affected,   claim that Kula, Bille  are the main hub  of  the biggest bunkering activities by  these miscreants.

When Aiteo was contacted for its response, it declined to join issues with Apochi.  It however  produced evidence of its payments to JTF totaling more than N1 billion over the past two/three years to provide security for  their pipelines. So, we wonder where these Apochi’s allegations are coming from.
However a source in Aiteo  provided to  THISDAY a letter it wrote to JTF crying out for help to arrest the worsening incidence of crude oil theft.

Also reacting some of  the protesters and indigenes of the community spoken to by THISDAY debunked Apochi’s allegation of being sponsored by Aiteo. Instead,  insisted  that what they are fighting for is the aquatic life in the Niger Delta that is being destroyed by the activities of  illegal bunkerers in collaboration with  some of these military men. 
One of the indigenes who gave his name simply  as Horizon, provided THISDAY  (GPS) coordinates which  he claimed where given to Apochi,  for action “but unfortunately, he did nothing about it.” He urged  the military authority to  quickly go and look at that place  to establish the  fact.

THISDAY attempted to reach Mr Peters for his reaction without  success. But contrary to the impression created by Suleiman, it was because of his uncompromising stands that he was been attacked by protesters sponsored by Aiteo,  a detailed  breakdown of the payment schedule  Aiteo paid JTF for pipeline security and protection, showed that for 2015 alone, the company paid a total of N19.696 million to the JTF. Out of this amount, N5.146 million was meant for the 130 Battalion operations, while the Forward Operating Base Formoso was to have got N14.823 million in 2015 alone.

Also, in 2016, the Aiteo, according to the document, paid the JTF a total of N462.033 million. Of this sum, the JTF collected N45.824 million for the 130 Battalion Operations in that year; N46.462 million for the 146 Battalion got; N24.596 million for the 343 Artillery Regiment; N194.751 million for the Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N150.400 million for what was termed the Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.

Equally, in 2017, Aiteo raised its payment to the JTF to a total of N449.419 million. Also, a breakdown of this showed that the JTF received N79.512 million for its 130 Battalion Operations in 2017; N59.406 million for its 146 Battalion; N48.400 million for its  343 Artillery Regiment; N152.908 million for its Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N109.193 million for its Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.

The payment continued into 2018, where so far, the JTF has received a total of N260.663 million from Aiteo this year. Similarly, a breakdown of the sum showed that this year alone, the company has committed N50.880 million for surveillance of pipeline, as payment to the 130 Battalion Operations; N31.143 to the 146 Battalion; N32.640 million to the 343 Artillery Regiment; N92.600 million to the Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N53.400 million to the Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.

“So, how can Commander Apochi now claim that they were trying to make the Armed Forces to protect their assets? In any case this is a national asset jointly owned  by Aiteo and NNPC.” the source stated.

These are GPS Location details allegedly provided to Apochi.

BUNKERY CAMPS GPS

N  04 29′ 07.3″

E  006 24′ 59.6″

N  04 27′ 48.3″

E  006 25′ 40.9″

N  04 28′ 43.7″

E  006 27′ 36.3″

N  04 29′ 02.5″

E  006 27′ 23.7″

NEMBE NCTL LINE GPS

N  04 30′ 53.7″

E  007 60′ 30.2″

N  04 30′ 46.8″

E  007 06′ 33.1″

N  04 27′ 25.9″

E  006 25′ 16.9″

N  04 27′ 26.2″

E  006 25′ 16.2″