AUGUST 1, 2012
A suspected oil thief, Mr. Joshua Orupere,40, was on Wednesday arrested by operatives of the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield for
allegedly attempting to bribe the outfit with $30,300 (N4.65m). He allegedly offered the bribe to secure the release of two vessels which were seized by the JTF for their involvement in oil theft.
The Commanding Officer, 343 Artillery Regiment of JTF, Lt. Col. Muktar Adamu, led the troops that impounded the vessels. But Orupere was apprehended at the headquarters of the JTF, Yenagoa, when he came with the bribe money to the office of the outfit’s Chief of Staff, who reportedly turned down the offer.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the ships, christened MV Premier and MV Somtrans were impounded along the Sagana waterways in Akasa, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The vessels were each laden with about 600,000 metric tons of stolen crude oil when they were intercepted by the JTF after an operation that lasted two days.
It was also gathered that four new K38 army boats were used in the operation. The Media Coordinator,JTF,Lt.Col Onyema Nwachukwu, said the operation was in line with the determination of the outfit to rid the Niger Delta of illegal bunkering and refining of petroleum products. He said the gunboats had assisted the outfit in fighting sea piracy and oil theft in the region.
He said the gunboats were built in (Holland) and equipped with modern facilities to combat pipeline vandalism and waterway-related crimes.
Nwachuckwu said the suspect who had
confessed to the crime attempted to bribe the chief of staff when he was apprehended. He, however, refused to disclose the name of the chief of staff, who rejected the money and arrested the alleged bribe giver.
“Let me use this opportunity to remind the perpetrators of this nefarious act that the JTF is not sleeping. Our men are taking adequate steps to ensure that the Niger Delta, both land and sea, is extensively policed.I urge them to seek legal means of livelihood,” he said.
In an interview with PUNCH Metro,Sopere admitted that he was in charge of the vessels when they were intercepted by the JTF. He, however, alleged that one of the vessels belonged to a retired Air Force Commander.
“I did not know the JTF Chief of Staff before but I met him with the link provided by the retired Air Force Commander. My link advised that I raise
money and offer as bribe and I went to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to raise over $30,000,” he said.
The vessels were later destroyed by the JTF