09 January 2012, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa –The special security force in the Niger Delta, the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Restore Hope has been restructured and is now known as Operation Pulo Shield.
Pulo is an Ijaw for oil, meaning the task force is also codenamed Operation Oil Shield.
The operational scope of the task force, which initially covers Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers has been extended to covers nine states namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers state.
Spokesman of the Joint Task Force, Lt. Col Timothy Antigha in a statement issued in Yenagoa who disclosed the restructuring added that the composition of the outfit has been expanded to include other agencies such as; National Intelligence Agency, Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Customs Service Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
Others include, Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS), Nigerian Ports Authority, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Oil Producing Companies.
He said the restructuring would further strengthen the effort of the outfit in tackling head long illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalisation and crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.
His words, “you are all aware that a couple of years ago, the Federal Government reconstituted the Joint Task Force, which hitherto existed in Rivers and Delta states, and tasked it principally to defeat militancy which had threatened the nation’s economic survival. After 3 years, the JTF is happy to inform you that, that phase of its operation in the Niger Delta has reached its culmination, following the elimination of militancy and the threat of it, to a very significant extent.
“You are aware that apart from cases of sundry crimes which are present in every society, the Niger Delta is now economically viable and stable, security wise. However, the problems of illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft still remain and loom ominously. Consequently, to confront and eliminate this problem which is responsible for the loss of federal government revenue to the tune of $15.8 Billion, the Defence Headquarters has directed the JTF to now focus on pipeline vandalism and associated economic crimes. In this new phase, the mission of the JTF will include, but not limited to; elimination of pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, illegal oil refining and illegal oil bunkering. It will also cover the elimination of piracy and all forms of sea robbery within its Area of Responsibility. This is to create a conducive environment for the operation of the Nation’s Oil and Gas Industry.”
He thanked the media for its support stressing that the job of ridding the Niger Delta Region of criminal gangs, crude oil thieves and illegal oil bunkerers would have been very difficult.