Commander, Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, says the outfit, despite the resilience of oil criminals, is winnng the war against oil theft, illegal refining and related crimes.
Atewe said this on Saturday when the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association led by its National President, Mrs. Felly Minimah, paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the JTF in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The JTF boss said the activities of illegal oil bunkering and refining were not only affecting the nation’s economy but also posed a serious threat to the health and livelihood of the people of the region.
He lamented that oil bunkers had devised the means of offering huge sums of money to JTF personnel in order to subvert them from carrying out their lawful duties.
He mentioned a case when an officer of the outfit was offered N25m by a group of bunkerers to bribe their way through, but the officer rejected the offer and got the culprits arrested.
Atewe also said the JTF in the first quarter of the year arrested 20 vessels, destroyed over 854 illegal refineries as well as killing and arrest of hardened sea pirates, kidnappers and cult members.
Atewe, who described the visit of NAOWA officials as “morale booster,” said inadequate gunboats, essential kits, operational vehicles and manpower were some of the challenges of the outfit.
The commander said, “When I assumed office, I immediately declared zero tolerance to all forms of illegal operations in the region under my jurisdiction.
“May I, however, call on the Federal Government to consider the building of modular refineries across the Niger Delta for the integration of those involved in oil bunkering activities in the area.”
In her remarks, Felly, who is also the wife of Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimal,commended the JTF for its effort in curtailing the activities of illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism in the creeks of the region.
The NAOWA President, who said the association was on a familiarisation tour of military formations and units across the country, noted that the association was formed to assist the poor and the less privileged, especially widows of deceased soldiers.
She added that the number of widows was increasing on a daily basis due to the insecurity in the country.
“As women, we will continue to pray for peace and security of the country. Our prayer will go a long way. We are strongly in support of what you and your men are doing in the Niger Delta,” she said.