JTF intensifies efforts to contain illegal refining

That oil wealth is the economic mainstay of Nigeria is indisputable, and to salvage the nation’s economy from being destroyed, the Joint Taskforce, Operation Pulo from Sector 2 has destroyed another route through which the oil is being siphoned for illegal refining in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Though the JTF was able to achieve this feat, operators of the illegal refinery managed to escape arrest by the force, which is on the trail of the daredevil economic saboteurs.

The people of Southern Ijaw Local Government, it was learnt, regretted the nefarious activities of the economic saboteurs as they had suffered all sorts of pollutants from the impure process of refining, which has devastated their habitats.

Spokesman of the affected communities in Southern Ijaw, Chief Akpoebide Douye, said the river, which is the source of water for cooking and drinking, was polluted, while all aquatic organisms such as fish, crabs and lobsters were dead owing to discharge of toxic materials into the waterways.

Continuing, he said the affected communities were faced with serious health challenges, as oxygen had been hampered while the community people could not breathe due to polluted air arising from discharge of carbon monoxide in the area.

Douye said the soil in the affected communities due to combustion and deficient in the soil nutrients, crops and vegetation had continued to suffer retarded growth, thereby heightening hunger among rural dwellers, majority of whom are now out of their natural occupation of farming, fishing and canoe carving.

According to him, the timely intervention of the JTF, supported by Southern Ijaw Local Government Taskforce, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), brought temporal relief as the operators of the illegal bunkering were dislodged from the communities in the council.

Troops deployed in Ogonbiri Agip Flow Station, in conjunction with Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Southern Ijaw Local Government Task Force (SILGA), during patrol, discovered an illegal oil-bunkering field with 8 active refining sites at Gbaraun market in SILGA Bayelsa State where oil thieves operate with Cotonou boats and speedboats.  The sites and the equipment were destroyed. No arrest was made during the operation as the suspects escaped on sighting the troops.

The JTF has also mustered efforts to apprehend the fleeing thieves and their collaborators and prosecute them according to the law, just as the troops had intensified surveillance on land and creeks as a way of constant checkmating the activities of the oil thieves in the area.

In Olugbobiri and Ikienbiri, the JTF also destroyed 35 drums of locally refined Automated Gas Oil (AGO).  The items were set ablaze in line with JTF mandate in the region.  The spokesman of the affected communities, Comrade Akpele Seigha, lauded the JTF, but called on the Federal Government to support the communities in view of the devastation on their economic lives and the hazard inflicted on their ecological system.

He also called for the intervention of Federal Government for relief materials to the people to enable them survive the immediate harsh reality of the impact on the inhabitants of the coastal communities to salvage them from starvation, epidemics and poverty.

At Furopa community, it was a free for all gun battle between the sea robbers and the JTF. The robbers were the first to open fire from their hideout, but later submitted to the superior fire power of the troops, leading to the recovery of cache of arms and ammunition from the robbers, which include 2 general purpose machine guns (GPMG), AK 47 rifles, one pump action gun, 40 rounds of ammunition, 4 machetes and 4 speed boats.

The recovered arms and ammunition, together with other equipment, are in custody of the JTF for preliminary investigation.

It was learnt that the activities of the robbers could not be divorced from the dwindling allocation to states from the federation.  While siphoning crude oil from an oil wellhead with a Cotonou boat, one pumping machine, a speed boat and other illegal oil bunkering equipment were found in their custody, though the JTF, after containing their activities, ensured that all recovered items were destroyed insitu while the culprits are in their custody for preliminary investigation.

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