The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named Operation Pulo Shield,*on Monday said that it arrested 608 suspected oil thieves in 594 raids carried out between January and June, 2013.
The JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, that oil theft was consequently on the decline.
“So far, we have carried out 594 illegal oil bunkering patrols, and several arrests have been made.
“In the two quarters we are talking about, we have scuttled about 748 illegal refineries within the region and we have impounded 24 sea-going vessels; we equally arrested 133 barges involved in oil theft.
“And 861 giant open wooden boats popularly referred to as Cotonou boats have been scuttled over this period.
“About 910 large surface tanks which oil thieves use in illegal refineries to reserve the crude have been scuttled.
“We have taken into custody about 608 suspects who are involved in oil theft and other related cases,’’ Nwachukwu said.
On the rate of oil theft, which reportedly led to the shut-in of 190,000 barrels per day production in Bayelsa, he said that the JTF was making a positive impact.
He said: “Of course, we stepped up our operational activities and I assure you that oil theft now is going down.
“Two major pipelines were shut down and before these pipelines were shut, our patrol troops had reported breaches on these pipelines.
“And if the oil companies had reacted in time to these reports, the breaches would have been clamped, and it would not have resulted in the shut down of the pipelines.”
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