JTF impounds vessel with suspected stolen crude, nabs 76

Mt Shandy 229 April, YENAGOA — The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, otherwise known as Operation Pulo Shield, yesterday, said its operatives have impounded a vessel over alleged involvement in crude oil theft along Otokomabie creek near Oloma community in Rivers State.

A giant barge was intercepted lurking around an illegal oil loading point close to Burma Rice Farm between Brass and Obiama water-ways in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Seventy-six suspects were reportedly arrested during the raids on identified locations by operatives of the JTF.

The vessel, MT Shandy, according to JTF, was intercepted by personnel of 146 Battalion patrol team of Sector 2.

Spokesman of the JTF, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement in Yenagoa, said the vessel, before its arrest, had been kept under surveillance by its operatives while it lurked around Bonny anchorage.

He said: “JTF gun boat patrol team laid in wait until the vessel prowled into Otokomabie creek close to Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, pipelines before swooping on it.

“The 12-man crew on the vessel initially resisted arrest by refusing to let down the vessel’s stairway (ladder) for the patrol team to access the vessel until the troops threatened to apply some force.”

Eight of the 12 crew members arrested are currently been quizzed at the Headquarters, Sector 2 in Port Harcourt to ascertain the degree of their culpability, while 4 others were left behind to man the vessel which is presently secured at the NPA Jetty in Bonny Island.”

He also disclosed that troops of 343 Regiment of same Sector also impounded a metal barge found lurking at an illegal oil loading point close to Burma Rice Farm between Brass and Obiama water ways in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

“The barge,” he said, “has been towed to AGIP Brass terminal while preliminary investigations are on to ascertain its owners.”

The operatives of the Forward Operational Base Formosso (a maritime component of the JTF) Lt. Col Nwachukwu further said they have arrested a barge with the designation Lot-098 at Odioma water ways in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

According to him, the barge which was arrested laden with 50,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil had been towed to AGIP Brass terminal pending further investigation.

“Meanwhile, in Delta State, troops of 3 Battalion of Sector 1 of the JTF during an anti oil theft patrol intercepted and scuttled 61 assorted boats conveying stolen petroleum products along Whiteman community, Benneth Island and Spediagbene general area in Warri South West LGA of Delta state.

“Twenty eight illegal oil distilleries were also scuttled and clamped down by the troops in the same general area. Apparatus used by the oil thieves to facilitate their illicit activities, including 65 empty plastic drums and 2 large plastic reservoirs were razed while 7 hoses, 10 pumping machines recovered from the site as exhibits are in custody of the Battalion.

“Two suspected notorious kidnappers have been smoked out of their hideout in Afukang in Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River from where they terrorised the state by a combined team of operatives of the Sector 3 of the JTF and Department of State Security covering CrossRiversState.

“The suspects Edidiong Udom and Victor Akwang who engaged the security team in a fire fight before they were overpowered and arrested in a pre-dawn anti kidnapping raid have been handed over to the Department of State Security, Calabar for further investigation. One pump action gun, one locally made pistol, 22 cartridges and four 7.62mm special ammunitions were recovered from the hide out.

“In another anti-kidnapping operation, troops of Sector 4 of the JTF on patrol along Ngbodo and Akoli-Imeni in Bende Local Government Area of Abia state have rescued one Mr Chidi Nwosu who was kidnapped by unknown gun men at Arochukwu street along Umuahia Road.

“The victim was extricated after a shootout with the kidnappers during which one of the kidnappers was gunned down. Two of the suspects who had earlier escaped have been arrested and are undergoing preliminary investigations before been handed over to relevant prosecuting agency. One AK 47 riffle, 2 magazines and 21 live rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition were recovered from the suspects’ hideout at Akoli Imenyi.

“During the entire operations that lasted from 15 to 27 April, 2013; 76 suspects were arrested for crimes ranging from kidnapping and oil theft activities. The suspects are under going preliminary investigation in various sectors of the Joint Task Force after which they will be handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies.”

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  • The growing trend of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in Nigeria justifies Jonathan’s proposal of a pripelines protection agency.