1. It is my delight to welcome you to Headquarters, Joint Task Force OPERATION PULO SHIELD for my media brief on our operational activities in the past one year. As we draw the curtain on the year 2013, it is crucial to look back and take stock of our operational activities within the year thereby necessitating this media brief.
2. The Mandate of the JTF as you are aware, is to stop illegal oil bunkering activities in the upstream sector, protect the oil and gas facilities and installations and ensure a secure environment for these and other lawful activities. To achieve this mandate, the JTF within the period under review, have conducted series of operations on land, waterways and air against illegal activities of oil thieves bedevilling the oil and gas industry. Consequently, the general security situation within JTF’s Area of Responsibility has been relatively calm. Although operating in an extremely challenging terrain, the JTF has remained determined and committed to achieving its mandate.
3. The aim of this media brief therefore, is to bring to public domain, the operational activities of the Task Force in combating the oil theft menace in the Niger Delta from January to December 2013 with a view to keeping the public abreast of our operations.
4. The media brief will cover the following:
a. Highlights of operational activities and achievements of the JTF.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE JOINT TASK FORCE OPERATION PULO SHIELD
5. In the period under review, the JTF successfully conducted several land, maritime and air operations against illegal oil bunkering and refining activities, pipeline vandalism, armed banditry and sea robbery. The Task Force have also conducted anti-kidnapping operations, cordon and search and destruction of re-emerging militant camps. It equally provided security to oil and gas facilities in the region to sustain their production. Highlights of our activities in the last 12 months include:
a. Anti-Illegal Oil Bunkering/Illegal Refinery Activities. JTF anti-illegal oil bunkering/refining operations in the year, led to the arrest of numerous suspects, the impounding of several barges, vessels, trucks and other tools used to perpetrate the crime and the outright destruction of illegal refineries. These operations like many others were achieved through constant patrols based on credible intelligence obtained from various sources particularly higher Headquarters, other Components of the JTF, informants and other good citizens. From January to date, the JTF Op PULO SHIELD conducted a total of 1,025 anti-illegal oil bunkering patrols, while over 1,951 illegal refineries have been destroyed.
Also scuttled were 81 barges, 1,117 Cotonou boats, 82 tanker trucks, 1,873 Surface tanks and 1,857 suspects were arrested. Additionally, 39, 760 drums of illegally refined products, 570 pumping machines and 75 outboard motor engines used as apparatus to facilitate oil theft were seized and destroyed. Forty six vessels of various sizes and capacities were also arrested during the period under review.
b. Pipeline Vandalism. Although limited incidents of pipeline vandalism still occur in the region, JTF operations has drastically reduced their occurrence. Those that still occur are mostly in remote areas of the creeks carried out at night between 2300hrs – 0300hrs by criminal gangs who take advantage of the JTF’s limited accessibility of the difficult terrain. The JTF provides full security on Port Harcourt–Aba pipeline which has succeeded in reducing the incidents of vandalism on that axis. The JTF operations therefore enabled the PPMC to re-open the Port Harcourt – Aba Pipeline which had been closed for years.
Similarly, the presence of the JTF had encouraged the PPMC to consider the re-opening of the Aba – Enugu Pipeline to be extended later from Enugu to Makurdi. The JTF has in addition to physical protection of the oil facilities, intensified patrols of the pipelines in order to forestall acts of pipeline vandalism.
c. Protection Of Oil and Gas Facilities. The JTF provides physical security to oil facilities. Critical oil platforms have troops deployed on them round the clock to ensure their protection. These efforts have assisted in sustaining the operations of these companies and lowering of total deferred production of the crude oil. However, the situation can be improved upon, if the oil companies are encouraged to adopt international best practices by installing ICT based sensors within their pipelines to provide early warning of acts of sabotage.
d. Ground Trotting Patrols. Ground trotting is an inch-by-inch foot patrol along the pipelines in the creeks and swamps. This was used to check the activities of vandals on the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) pipeline. Hitherto, the inaccessibility of this trunk line due to difficult terrain, was being exploited by oil thieves who are conversant with the terrain, thereby making it one of the most vandalized pipelines in Bayelsa and Rivers States.
Ground trotting patrols were therefore conducted jointly between Task Force personnel and representatives from the affected oil companies tracking the pipelines all through the terrain. The exercise has been very helpful in checking criminal activities and identifying breached points which need to be clamped by the oil companies.
e. Anti-Armed Banditry/Piracy Operations. The JTF operations against armed robbery, piracy and other forms of organized crimes had also yielded positive results. Over 42 armed robbers were killed and 183 were arrested from January to date while over 40 sea pirates were also killed and 41 others arrested and assorted arms and ammunition recovered from them.
f. Anti-Kidnapping Operations. Although kidnapping seems to be on the rise recently in the region and the country in general, perhaps due to the pecuniary gains from its ransom, the JTF operations have been recording successes in its operations against the menace. The successes recorded were as a result of coordinated efforts between the JTF, other security agencies. Overall, over 23 kidnappers were killed, 236 arrested and assorted arms and ammunition recovered from them within the period under review.
g. Anti-Militancy Operations. The introduction of amnesty by the Federal Government formally ended militancy in the Niger Delta hence the JTF maintains zero tolerance for militancy in any form. In this drive, the JTF consistently hunts for militants throughout the Area of Responsibility. Operations were conducted against militant activities as necessary while their camps and hideouts are constantly being haunted for destruction.
(i) Operation CLEAN SLATE.
a. Operation CLEAN SLATE. Between 22 – 23 Apr 13, the Task Force conducted a swift operation codenamed Operation CLEAN SLATE in Azuzuama and environs in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State. The operation was designed to stamp out the emergence of militant activities in the area. The ex-militant activities in this area came to a head on 5 Apr 13 when some ex-militants led by renegade commander Mr Jackson ‘Jasper’ Feuztobobai, attacked a Police escort boat and killed 11 policemen.
Operation CLEAN SLATE was conducted to flush out the perpetrators of that attack, other militants and criminals from the area. The operation led to the destruction of their hideouts and assets including speed boats, assorted ammunition and communication gadgets. It is pleasing to note that the mastermind of the attack on the police on 5 Apr 13, Mr Jackson ‘Jasper’ was later arrested and handed over the police for prosecution.
(ii) Destruction of Militant Camps.
The JTF does not tolerate the existence of any militant camps in the region and as such suspected areas are constantly checked and those identified immediately destroyed. In that regard, a militant camp discovered at Adagbarasa/Itagbene in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, was destroyed on 27 April, 2013 after a 12-hour gun-battle with the militants, who were well fortified.
Similarly, on 8 November, 2013 a robust patrol team from Sector 3 dispatched to a suspected militant camp in Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State uncovered and dismantled an Efut Esighi Militant Camp. Some items including assorted ammunition, motorised fibre boat and household items were recovered from the site.
The Sector is on the trail of the militants with a view to apprehending them for further investigation. The JTF will continue to closely monitor activities of ex-militants with a view to preventing regrouping of criminal gangs and the establishment of camps and hideouts.
6. In spite of the difficult environment it operates, the JTF has recorded modest successes, although still confronted with a handful of challenges and constraints. These challenges include inadequate maritime platforms, insufficient operational vehicles, lack of some essential kits and insufficient manpower, among others.
The Task Force is however optimistic that most of these challenges will soon be addressed through the efforts of the Chief of Defence Staff, Defence Headquarters and the National Economic Council (NEC)Intervention Plan initiated by the President.
7. This media brief has elaborately highlighted some of the most significant activities and incidents recorded during our operations in the year 2013. It also brought to the fore; factors contributing to sustaining illegal oil bunkering activities in the region and some of the challenges confronting the Task Force. While the Task Force remains highly committed to achieving its mandate, its ability to operate optimally will no doubt be enhanced if some of the challenges confronting it are addressed.
May I conclude this media brief by wishing you all very merry Christmas and a fulfilling new year.
Thank you for your attention.
24 Dec 13