19 December 2012, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa – The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named ‘Operation Opulo Shield’ yesterday said the command lost nine men while three were injured in its operation in the region in 2012.
Commander of the Joint Task Force, Major General Johnson Ochoga, who briefed the media on the outfit activities for the end of the operational year, said their modest achievements were impeded by some challenges.
He disclosed that the challenges included attacks by “daring illegal oil bunkerers, pirates and sea robbers, who sometimes engage our troops in armed combat.”
Other challenges, he pointed out, were support of communities for oil thieves, involvement of foreigners in illegal bunkering, ineptitude of oil company surveillance contracts and prosecution and quick dispensation of justice.
According to him, the critical challenge of non-registration of oil vessels, barges and motorised boats being used to perpetrate illegal oil bunkering “undermine efforts at eradicating oil theft in the Niger Delta.”
The JTF commander said this informed recent documentation and registration of vessels, barges and motorized boats operating in the region which largely facilitated its ability to track down the illegal bunkerers by tracing arrested vessels to their owners.
He said in the course of the year, the JTF arrested 1,945 suspects, impounded barges, vessels, trucks and other tools used by bunkerers and destroyed over 4,349 illegal refineries.
“In the last 12 months, 7,585 anti-illegal bunkering patrols have been conducted. A total of 1,945 suspects were arrested while 4,349 illegal refineries were destroyed. Also destroyed are 133 barges, 1,215 Cotonou boats, 187 tankers trucks, 178 illegal fuel dumps as well as 5,574 surface tanks.”
He disclosed further that 18 vessels were destroyed as well as 36,504 drums of illegally refined products, 638 pumping machines and 326 outboard engines which were seized and destroyed.
He called for the cooperation of stakeholders, community leaders and law abiding citizens in carrying out its duties and revealed that the prospects for crude oil production, tourism, power generation and petrochemical and allied industries abound.