02 October 2012, Sweetcrude, YENAGOA – AS part of renewed effort to stem crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products in the mangrove swamp of Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, the military authorities have established a new base in the creek of Igbomotoru in the Southern Ijaw council area of Bayelsa State.
Sweetcrude gathered that the decision to establish military presence in the area was the outcome of a meeting of the security chiefs to effectively secure the Igbomotoru axis, which is believed to be the gateway for trans-loading of stolen crude oil and illegal refined products from Cotonou boats to bigger ocean going vessels.
The area is also littered with hundreds of illegal refinery camps tucked away in the deep mangrove swamp from prying eyes.
The Presidency it was learnt was troubled that in spite of the large scale clamped down on illegal refineries and crude oil theft in the vast mangrove swamp of the state by the nation’s special security in the Niger Delta, Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, crude oil theft and illegal refinery business has been on the increase.
Sweet Crude investigation revealed that both the young and old are involved in this illicit business which is an offshoot of militancy.
Most children of school age it was reliably learnt, have abandoned their education to join the old ones in refining stolen crude unaware of the inherent dangers to their health and future. However, the ease at which these oil thieves tap into the delivery lines in the creek to get raw crude for their illicit business has raised suspicion of internal collaborators within the oil industry.
It was therefore resolved that a military base be set up in the Igbomotoru enclave to dislodge the illegal refinery operators and suspected crude oil thieves from their area and ensure they do not return.
Accordingly, heavily armed operatives of the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield backed by gunboats and other smaller fast moving water crafts were deployed to the area weekend.
The new outpost with two massive house boats to serve as the operational base of the troops, now sit atop the water and guarded by menacingly looking gunboats.
Immediately the troops led by Major Augustine Obochi established their presence in the area, they launched a dawn raid on the illegal refinery camps.
Conscious of the narrowness of the passage to these camps, the soldiers resorted to using their smaller watercraft specially acquired for the operations, stormed the illegal refinery sites destroying about 30 of the camps and 29 Cotonou canoes used in transferring stolen crude oil and illegally refined petroleum products to sea going vessels.
The Media Coordinator of the Joint Task Force, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, confirmed the military operation in the creek which led to the destruction of 28 illegal refinery camps and 29 Cotonou boats used in conveying stolen crude oil and illegal refined products.
The JTF Spokesman also confirmed the setting up of a military outpost in the area. He said, “Igbomotoru community is noted for its notoriety in illegal bunkering, because most sea going vessels have been discovered to use it as hide out where they do their trans- shipment of illegally siphoned crude oil.”
According to him, the operation would continue until the area is rid of oil thieves and illegal refinery operators who are further destroying the environment through their crude technology of refining the stolen crude oil. “We will not be stopped by false hue and cry,” he declared.
Also, the co-ordinator of Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Inemo Samiama had repeatedly condemned illegal refinery activities in the Niger Delta, describing it as painful given the magnitude of despoliation being unleashed on the environment by the oil barons who are only concerned about the quick returns they make while the vast stretch of the land is withering away.