18 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa- No fewer than 53 persons allegedly involved in illegal oil bunkering have been arrested by the Joint Task Force (JTF) codenamed Operation Restore Hope in the Niger-Delta in the last three months.
Spokesman of the Joint Task Force, Lt. Col Timothy Antigha who disclosed this in Yenagoa said the arrests were effected in separate operations in Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States.
Lt Col Antigha who spoke to newsmen while parading some of the latest suspects nabbed in the Akassa area of Bayelsa on the Atlantic fringe, at the Sector 2 command of the outfit said the JTF would not relent in its crusade against crude theft and illegal refineries operators until the scourge is stamped out in the region.
According to him “about 53 suspected individuals had been arrested in the last 3 months by JTF in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states on criminal activities of illegal bunkering”.
“As part of our steady operations to keep the nation’s pipeline networks safe from criminal activities and war against illegal bunkering, our personnel last Friday in Akassa area of Brass local government area of Bayelsa State arrested another 15 persons, suspected to be actively involved in the stealing of the nation’s crude oil which they refine in some identified illegal refineries,” Lt Col Antigha said.
“At the background are the equipment they allegedly used to pump stolen crude oil and other harbour engines being utilised to carry out their illegal activities.
“You will find fresh residue of poorly refined adulterated products from the ring hose attached to the pumping machines of these suspects. Their equipment, including 3 harbour engines was also intercepted by our personnel. These are the equipment they used to siphon stolen crude oil from ruptured pipelines.”
The JTF spokesman said preliminary investigations showed that “the suspects were in two categories, namely suspected key perpetrators and those arrested within the vicinity of the illegal oil refineries.
He added that investigations would determine individual level of culpability over the criminal activities and assured that the suspects would be handed over to the police authorities for subsequent prosecution.