Operatives of the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield, have arrested no fewer than eight suspected illegal oil thieves.
Also, the operatives intercepted vessels and 32 barges loaded with suspected petroleum products at Onne Port, Rivers State.
During the operation, led by Col. Hillay Nzan yesterday, other accomplices were said to have escaped on sighting men of the task force.
Nzan, who led some operatives in company of select journalists, stormed the Onne Port commando-style, refusing entreaties of some naval personnel from NNS Pathfinder that they be allowed to handle the matter.
After telling the Naval operatives led by a lieutenant commander that the matter was within the mandate of the JTF, the team hopped into a waiting JTF gunboat and moved to the alleged theft scene and effected the arrest of eight suspects in a large wooden boat popularly referred to as Cotonou. Other suspects, however, reportedly escaped on sighting the task force men.
The arrested suspects including those who escaped, were said to be the owners of the 32 barges suspected to be laden with illegal petroleum products.
Speaking with journalists after the operation, Nzan said the JTF got a tip-off from good citizens.
“The operation we carried out was based on a tip-off from good citizens of this country. As we got the information, we swung into action. Luckily, we were able to arrest some ‘ otonou’ boats used for the illegal oil bunkering. We were able to arrest some persons in connection with the bunkering. Some of the barges were carrying products suspected to be petroleum products. We have taken the samples for laboratory analyses. However, when some of the suspects saw our task force men, then ran away. But we were able to apprehend eight persons,” Nzan stated.
He said the JTF would carry out preliminary investigation into the matter to extract other germane information from the suspects.
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