23 January 2016, Abuja – The Federal Government has launched a special military operation code-named operation AWATSU against pipeline vandals in the country.
The operatives of the special task force have also arrested 25 members of the gang of vandals operating at the Arepo in Ogun State and parts of Lagos State.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, who stated this in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH, said that the operatives also seized 50 vehicles belonging to the vandals in the ongoing operation in Lagos.
He said that the military was taking proactive steps to curtail the activities of the vandals in the Lagos axis.
Last year, the military took a decision after a meeting between the leadership of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation to maintain a presence at the Arepo area following the killing of four policemen and 11 officials of the Department of State Services by suspected vandals.
Abubakar said that the arrests and the seizures made by the military were responsible for the recent call by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, for the establishment of special courts to try vandals in the country.
He also stressed that the military had done adequate deployment to ensure the protection of the nation’s pipelines in the country.
He said, “You see, we are taking proactive measures. As I speak to you, there is an operation called ‘Operation AWATSU.’ We are doing enough in that place, if you follow what has been happening, there has been serious arrests and seizures.
“Just of recent, about 25 persons were arrested with 50 vehicles in Lagos. This operation is ongoing until we sanitise the whole general area and I believe we will do that because this is a very important axis that cannot be neglected, and whoever is doing this kind of thing is not a true Nigerian.
“And some of them were arrested and we will continue to do that. That is why the chief of Naval Staff canvassed for a special court to try such persons, so as to serve as a deterrent to others and that is the position of the Armed Forces.”
The Defence spokesperson urged the people of the host communities to the pipelines to cooperate with security operatives in protecting them.