A vessel, MV Sea Express, laden with 2,500 tonnes of crude impounded by the Joint Task Force(OP PULO SHIELD) in the Niger Delta at Okuboto creek in Bayelsa State..on Sunday 21 April, 2013
Photo: NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA
1. It is my delight to welcome you to the Headquarters, Joint Task Force (OPERATION PULO SHIELD) for the media brief on JTF operational activities for the first quarter of 2013. May I remind you that the Joint Task Force OPERATION PULO SHIELD on 9 January 2012 was handed the mandate of curbing illegal oil bunkering, crude oil theft, pipe line vandalism and other acts of criminality militating against socio-economic life in the Niger Delta.
The recent ugly developments in the Niger Delta in terms of criminality, oil theft and sundry crimes have resulted in a compelling need to review our tactical deployment in some parts of the region. This has occasioned the recent wave of anti kidnapping and anti sea robbery operations embarked upon by the JTF. Also, realizing the multi-faceted nature of the campaign against illegal oil bunkering, the JTF has harnessed areas of synergy with other stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, leaving no stone unturned to ensure it attains success in its campaign.
As we carry out our operations jointly with these agencies, major successes have so far been recorded as you will find in the following account of our operational exploits.
2. The aim of this media brief is to bring to public glare through your various reputable news media, the recent operational activities of the JTF in the Azuzuama and the fight against crude oil theft in the Niger Delta in the first quarter of 2013.
3. The brief will cover the following:
a. JTF Operations in Azuzuama, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
b.Highlights of Anti Illegal Oil Bunkering Operations/Achievements.
JTF OPERATIONS IN SOUTHERN IJAW LOCAL GOVT OF BAYELSA STATE
4. Insecurity and criminal activities by gunmen and other hoodlums in Azuzuama and other areas of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa state came to a head on 5 April 13, when some ex militants attacked a Police escort boat and killed 11 Policemen. The perpetrators were identified and tracked and a joint Operation codenamed OP CLEAN SLATE WAS CONDUCTED ON 22 – 23 April 2013 to apprehend the criminals and rid the area of hoodlums.
In that operation, the hideouts of the criminals were destroyed and various war-like materials including speedboats, assorted ammunition and communication gadgets were either destroyed or recovered. The operation swept through Southern Ijaw LGA including the notorious areas of Ukubie, Lobia 1 and 2, Ekeni and Ezetu communities.
In this first wave of operation, our troops recovered items including 1 Ak 47 riffle magazine loaded with 30 and 4 extra live rounds of 7.62mm, yard of Army camouflage and sewn uniforms, 1 cartridge belt, wraps of marijuana, 2 Thuraya phones, Radio intercom communication set and 109 Honduran Lempira (foreign currency notes) from the hide outs. That Operation destabilized the criminals and put them on the run.
Recent Armed Clash In Azuzuama.
On 5 May 13 acting on tip-off, our troops were dispatched to Lobia 1 where an armed collision had reportedly occurred between two factions or groups. On arrival at the community our troops promptly cordoned off and searched the community for possible culprits and arms and in that operation our troops recovered two AK 47 rifles, six AK 47 magazine, GPMG barrels, 145 rounds of 7.62MM special ammunition and one speedboat among others. Unspecified number of casualties was reported and at the moment 2 bodies have been recovered from the location.
Deployment of Troops at Azuzuama.
Inspite of the successes of Operation CLEAN SLATE, HQ JTF assessment is that only a continuous deployment of troops in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area particularly Azuzuama would put a stop to these unwholesome activities and rid the area of criminals. In line with our mandate therefore, the JTF has deployed troops at Azuzuama with effect from 5 May 13.
The deployment in Azuzuama is robust and comprises all Components of the JTF, for operational effectiveness. The troops are fully on ground in Azuzuama and their impact is already being felt given the general atmosphere of calm and security that prevails in the area. The security presence provided by our troops will enhance the protection of lives and properties the inhabitants and users of the waterways.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE JOINT TASK FORCE OPERATION PULO SHIELD
5. Four months into the year, the Task Force has recorded impressive achievements in the area of securing land environment and waterways, 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 destruction of kidnappers and sea robbers’ hideouts and camps along the waterways.
6. JTF Anti-Illegal Oil Bunkering/Illegal Refinery Activities.
The sundry crimes in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector are usually in the form of crude oil theft, theft of refined petroleum products by vandalizing pipelines and well-heads, as well as illegal distillation of crude oil (illegal refinery), to produce adulterated Automated Gas Oil (AGO), to which the JTF has responded with zero tolerance. Our operational response to these varying modes of crime has been robust air overfly, ground and waterway/creek patrols by our troops.
These tripartite and well coordinated patrols have resulted in the interception and arrest of several suspects, the impoundment of vessels, barges, trucks and other apparatus used to perpetrate the crime, as well as outright destruction of illegal oil distillation camps.
In the last four months, a total of 18 vessels, 26 barges, 545 assorted boats, were arrested by our patrol teams, while 748 illegal crude oil distillation camps were scuttled in the entire geographical spread covered by our 5 sectors. So far, 498 suspects have been apprehended within this period.
Suffice to mention at this point that after arrest, preliminary investigations are usually carried out by investigators at the Headquarters of the Sector where the culprits were arrested and subsequently handed over to relevant prosecuting security agencies. Our responsibility stops at this juncture, as we are no longer responsible for the suspects since they have left our custody.
7. It is worthy of note that during this quarter, it was observed that the incidents of illegal crude oil distillation activities were more prevalent in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states. Areas identified for their notoriety in this regard include Akassa, Igbematoru, Tebidaba, Sangana and Kola/ Obiekwu, a boundary town between Rivers and Bayelsa states.
The JTF provides full security on Port Harcourt- Aba pipeline which has successfully reduced the incidents of vandalism on that axis. The operations of JTF have enabled the PPMC re-open the Port Harcourt pipeline which had been closed for years. Similarly, the presence of the JTF has encouraged the PPMC to consider the re-opening of the Aba- Enugu pipeline to be extended from Enugu to Markurdi.
9. Protection of Oil and Gas Facilities.
The JTF has provided physical security to oil facilities. Most critical oil platforms have troops deployed on them round the clock to enhance their protection. These efforts have assisted in sustaining the operations of these oil companies.
However, given the multifaceted nature of this menace, we identified the need for the oil companies to be encouraged to adopt international best practices by installing ICT based sensors within their pipelines to provide early warning of acts of sabotage. This will assist in protecting oil facilities, preventing acts of sabotage on pipelines and curtailing crude oil theft.
10. Destruction of Militant Camps.
The JTF has continued to maintain zero tolerance for the existence of militant camps in the Niger Delta. A militant camp was recently discovered and destroyed in Sector 3 Area of Responsibility covering Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, while troops of 3 Battalion of Sector 1 also discovered a training camp at Ogbe-Ijoh forest in Delta State where some recruits were being trained in physical fitness, unarmed combat and military drills using improvised rifles. Nine suspects were arrested at the camp which was an abandoned training camp for ex-militants.
11. Anti-Kidnapping Operations.
Perhaps due to pecuniary gains accruing from ransoms many young people who should be positively engaged are indulging in this new crime called kidnapping.
However, the JTF in last four months have tackled kidnappers headlong, recording successes in its anti-kidnapping operations.
On 3 Mar 13, JTF troops in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State nipped in the bud, the kidnap of the mother of Mr Patrick Akpobolouka Emi. In Afukang Calabar South, 2 kidnappers were also arrested by a combined team of JTF and Department of State Security operatives in Sector 3.
Our troops in Sector 4 of the JTF on patrol along Ngbodo and Akoli-Imeni in Bende Local Government Area of Abia state rescued one Mr Chidi Victor Nwosu who was kidnapped by unknown gunmen at Arochukwu street along Umuahia Road. The victim was extricated after a shootout with the kidnappers during which one of the kidnappers was gunned down.
Overall, 7 kidnappers were killed in shootouts with our troops, 51 arrested and assorted arms and ammunition were recovered from them within the period under review.
12. These modest achievements are certainly not without challenges. The JTF 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 Shielding Saboteurs and 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 shielding saboteurs who vandalize pipelines and flow stations for reasons of grievances they hold against some oil companies. The situation can best be appreciated when you imagine how some people convert their soak-away pits into reservoirs to store stolen crude oil. This awful discovery prompted the JTF to initiate advocacy program to sensitize the communities.
b. 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 theft 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 sub-let the employment of surveillance teams to contractors. Some contractors are not dedicated. You will recall that some surveillance contractors were arrested trying to vandalize a pipeline at KPORGHO in GOKANA LGA of Rivers State on 19 November, 2012. It is therefore necessary for oil companies to review the employment pattern of their surveillance contractors and their manner of deployment.
c. Prosecution and Prompt Dispensation of Justice.
One of the factors militating against the complete eradication of the menace of oil theft is the issue of prosecution.
The JTF does not possess legal powers to prosecute suspects. Therefore, all suspects arrested are handed over to the NPF, EFCC or the NSCDC. These cases, when pursued in the courts follow the normal court bureaucracy of granting bails and several adjournments. Some of these suspects return immediately to their illicit businesses the moment they are released on bail. It is almost a vicious cycle. This seriously delays the quick dispensation of justice and jeopardizes the entire effort.
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.
13. The JTF has immense prospects in realizing its mandate of ridding the region of oil theft as it strives continually to reposition the security standing of the Niger Delta.
14. In conclusion, the JTF reiterates its commitment towards the ending of oil theft and other acts of economic sabotage in the Niger Delta area. Actualizing this mandate will require the cooperation of all stakeholders, community leaders,opinion leaders and all law-abiding citizens.
7 May 2013
JTF OPERATION PULO SHIELD