– 7, 585 anti-illegal bunkering patrols
– 1,945 suspects arrested
– 4,349 illegal refineries destroyed.
– 133 barges and 1,215 Cotonou boats seized and destroyed
– 187 tanker trucks impounded
– 178 illegal fuel dumps razed
– 5,574 surface tanks destroyed
– 18 major oil vessels impounded
– secret militant camps raided and closed
DY Comd JTF
Gentlemen of the media
1.It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to the Headquarters, Joint Task Force (OPERATION PULO SHIELD) for my media brief on our operational activities in the past one year. You will recall that the Joint Task Force formerly known as OPERATION RESTORE HOPE transmuted to OPERATION PULO SHIELD on 9 January 2012 with a mandate of curbing illegal oil bunkering, crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and other acts of criminality that debilitate socio-economic life in the Niger Delta area.
The transmutation occasioned the expansion of the area of responsibility to cover the 9 oil producing states as well as the inclusion of other paramilitary security and civil agencies. The outfit was also reconfigured to encompass 5 sectors. The transmutation and re-conceptualisation was informed by the realization of the multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted nature of the campaign against illegal oil bunkering and the need for synergy of efforts among stakeholders at all levels. Despite few steps back, this has so far been reasonably achieved as we now carry out our operations jointly with these agencies and major successes have been recorded.
2.The aim of this media brief is to apprise the public through the media of the operational activities of the JTF in combating the hydra-headed menace of illegal oil bunkering and crude oil theft in the Niger Delta from January to December 2012.
3.The brief will cover the following:
a. Highlights of Anti Illegal Oil Bunkering Operations/Achievements.
OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE JOINT TASK FORCE OPERATION PULO SHIELD
4. Registration of Vessels, Barges and Motorised boats.
In our strive to actualize our mandate, we carefully studied the situation in the Niger Delta and found that one of the critical challenges that undermine efforts at eradicating oil theft in the Niger Delta is the use of unregistered vessels, barges and powered boats to perpetrate illegal oil bunkering. This is because it undermines diligent prosecution of those behind the illicit business by concealing their identities. Towards addressing this challenge and as part of the overall efforts of the government to tackle oil theft and other acts of economic sabotage; the JTF carried out security documentation and registration of vessels, barges and motorised boats operating in the Niger Delta area from 26 Jun 12. A total of 85 vessels, 64 barges and 217 powered boats were duly registered. This has largely facilitated our operation and our ability to track down the illegal oil bunkerers by tracing arrested vessels to their owners.
5. Twelve months into the transmutation, the Task Force has recorded impressive achievements in the area of securing land environment and water ways, eradicating illegal oil bunkering, protecting oil and gas facilities as well as lives and property of the populace in the Niger Delta. Some of the major activities carried out include protection of oil and gas infrastructures, anti-illegal oil bunkering patrols, destruction of militant camps, as well as recovery of arms and ammunition in wrong hands.
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 tanker trucks, 178 illegal fuel dumps as well as 5,574 surface tanks. In addition, 36,504 drums of illegally refined products, 638 pumping machines and 326 out board engines were seized and destroyed.
An outstanding success of the Task Force is the arrest of 18 vessels; viz., MT ANE, MT OXO, MT TAMUNO-IBI, MT VANNESA and MT PRINCESS NNENA. Others include, MV PREMIER, MV SOMTRANS, MT MINTRA as well as MT ALEXANDER. Also arrested were MT OPESCO PETER, MV LIBERTY, MT SOPHIA, MT SITURA, MT EVE and MT LESTER. In a frantic move to secure the release of MV PREMIER and MV SOMTRANS, the owner Joshua Orukpere offered the Chief of Staff Headquarters JTF the of sum Ten Million Naira as bribe. He was arrested when he brought the sum of $30,300 as upfront. These arrests reflect the unrelenting efforts of the JTF to eradicate illegal oil bunkering while making the business increasingly unrewarding and frustrating for the perpetrators. A very recent arrest still undergoing preliminary investigation is that of MT ASHKAY with 10 Indians and 4 Nigerians on board.
7.It is necessary however, to point out that though the number of illegal refineries destroyed within the period under review may seem alarming, the fact remains that crudeness, simplicity of the design and cheapness of construction apparatus of these illegal refineries account for its proliferation.
8. Protection of Oil and Gas Facilities.
In order to carry out effective protection of oil and gas facilities, we conducted reconnaissance of SPDC and 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. Also we have deployed troops 24 hours daily on most critical oil platforms to enhance their protection. Realizing the importance of information sharing and synergy of efforts, we have partnered with stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to checkmate oil related crimes. Though this effort is yielding result, it is equally important that oil firms are encouraged to adopt international best practices by installing ICT based sensors within their pipe lines to provide early warning of acts of sabotage.
9. Destruction of Militant Camps.
The JTF has continued to maintain zero tolerance for the existence of militant camps in the Niger Delta Area. Since the transmutation, the Task Force was able to identify and clamp down occupied militant camps in Oron, Akwa Ibom State and Ikang in Cross River State, as well as abandoned militant camps at Foropa in Bayelsa State, Ojoma Creek and Ferupakama Community in Rivers State. In the afore mentioned cases, suspects were arrested while assorted arms and ammunition, including RPG 9 bombs, RPG 7 bombs and 40 mm grenade were recovered. Also on 25 Apr 12, a suspected militant camps was raided and closed at Amamba around Duteb Island near Okrika in Rivers state. The most recent being camps operated by Bakassi Freedom Movement (BFM) led by one Lapto Igbo. The camps which are located at Edik Idim near Ikang, and Esighe Creek both in Cross River State and served as logistics and operational bases respectively were clamped down after all efforts to convince the group to surrender their arms voluntarily were rebuffed. During the operation 28 oil workers held hostage by the group were rescued while assorted arms and ammunition were equally recovered.
10. Recovery of Arms and Ammunition.
In our efforts to rid the Niger Delta of illegal arms and ammunition, we have continued to embark on recovery of arms/ammunition through raids, cordon and search operations as well as snap road blocks and checkpoints. Worth mentioning are the large quantities of assorted ammunition which were recovered in a shrine at Ojoma Creek, behind Dutch Island, Okrika on 23 Feb 12. Similarly, a raid at SAFAROGO Village in Ovia South West LGA of Edo State on 26 May 12 led to the arrest of an ex-militant and the seizure of a Machine Gun, three AK 47 rifles, one pistol and 9 assorted weapons. Also, recovered are 1,812 rounds of ammunition. The JTF remains committed to mopping up all illegal arms and other dangerous weapons in the possession of unauthorized persons in the region.
In this direction, raids and cordon and search operations will continue to be conducted in suspected criminal hideouts and communities.
11. These modest achievements are certainly not without challenges. Regularly, the Force is confronted by daring illegal oil bunkerers, pirates and sea robbers, who most times engage our troops in armed combat. These encounters in some instances have resulted in loss of lives of some of our personnel as was the case on 1 March 2012 when 5 JTF personnel were killed in the waterways of Brass by these vandals.
On 14 May 12, a soldier was also shot dead when armed bandits opened fire at our operatives while on patrol at Choba in Rivers state. 3 other JTF operatives were also killed and 3 wounded on 30 May 2012, while escorting an oil-servicing company’s vessel along Santa Barbara River in Bayelsa.
We have not allowed these unfortunate incidents dampen our morale and resolve to pursue our mandate to a logical conclusion.
Aside the afore-mentioned, the JTF OPPS is faced with a handful of challenges militating against its efforts to combat oil theft in the Niger Delta. A number of these challenges include:
a. Communities support for oil thieves.
In the course of our efforts to eradicate oil theft in the region, it was discovered that several individuals in the communities were either actively involved in the illegal business or are collaborators with oil thieves. This discovery prompted the outfit to organize advocacy program in which involved sensitization visits to several communities.
b. Involvement of Foreigners in Illegal Bunkering.
The arrest of 21 Ghanaians and their 5 Nigerian collaborators as well as the destruction of 2 vessels containing 1300 tons of crude as earlier mentioned are indicators in this direction. Another instance is the recent arrest of 10 suspects of Indian nationality and 4 Nigerians on board MT ASHKAY. This has brought to the fore the need to monitor foreigners more closely in the region which is a primary responsibility of the Nigerian Immigration Service and further underscores the importance of the multi agency nature of the JTF.
c. Ineptitude of Oil Company Surveillance Contactors.
Most oil companies have surveillance contractors responsible for monitoring their network of pipelines in the Niger Delta. It is therefore of a major concern that illegal oil bunkering has continued despite the deployment of these surveillance contractors. One reason for their apparent ineptitude is the manner of employment by the oil companies who sublet the employment of surveillance teams to contractors.
Some contractors are not dedicated. Recently, some surveillance contractors were arrested trying to vandalize a pipeline at KPORGHO in GOKANA LGA. It is therefore necessary for oil companies to overhaul the employment pattern of their surveillance contractors and their manner of deployment.
d. Prosecution and Quick Dispensation of Justice.
One of the factors militating against the complete stamping out of the menace of oil theft is the issue of prosecution. By law the JTF has no legal powers to prosecute suspects. Therefore, all suspects arrested are handed over to the NPF or the NSCDC. These cases, when carried to the courts follow the normal court bureaucracy of granting bails and several adjournments. This seriously delays the quick dispensation of Justice.
To overcome this challenge, it has been suggested severally by the JTF that a special court for the prosecution of oil thieves be instituted. However, that is yet to see the light of the day.
12.The prospects of JTF actualizing its mandate of ridding the region of oil theft are enormous as it strives daily to continually improve the security status of the region. Besides, the obvious increase to the production and export of crude oil, prospects in the areas of tourism, power generation and petrochemical and allied industries abound. This will attract huge capital to the country and help government to develop the country at a much faster rate.
13. In conclusion, let me seize the opportunity provided by this media brief to reiterate JTF’s commitment towards eradication of oil theft, illegal oil bunkering and other acts of economic sabotage in the Niger Delta area. Actualizing this mandate will require the cooperation of all stake holders, opinion cum community leaders and all law-abiding citizens.
14. I wish to convey my appreciation to you for your balanced reporting of JTF activities and urge you to sustain it. As this is my last media brief before the Christmas, let me use this moment to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year as we step into year 2013. Thank you for your attention.
JTF (OPERATION PULO SHIELD)