06 September 2012, Sweetcrude, BENIN—THE Joint Task Force, code named Operation Thunderstorm, in Edo State, has destroyed no fewer than five illegal refineries at Igbelebu, in Ovia South-West Local Government Area of the state.
In Delta State, soldiers of the 3 Battalion, Effurun Barracks, Effurun, near Warri, have made a discovery of over 6,000 illegal crude oil refineries in three Itsekiri communities of Ugborodo, Aruton and Ugboegungun, Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state.
It was gathered that communities collect levies from the suspected crude oil thieves to enable them carry out their illegal activities in their domains.
Meantime, five suspects, including a female, were arrested with five loaded AK 47 guns and 204 rounds of ammunition, while a manhunt has been intensified for the crude oil kingpin who escaped arrest, weekend, in Warri.
Commanding Officer of 3 Battalion, Effurun, Lt. Col. Ifeanyi Otu, who spoke to reporters in Warri on the haul, informed on the destruction of the 6,000 illegal refineries, 10,000 GP tanks, 1,000 Cotonou boats, unspecified litres of refined products used by the suspected oil thieves for the unlawful business, Monday night.
Cache of arms
Also, JTF in the Niger Delta, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, yesterday, said its operatives intercepted a cache of arms and ammunition in Ajudaibo Community, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, following a stop and search operation, leading to the arrest of three persons, including a woman.
The seizure was reportedly carried out by the soldiers attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Sector 1 Command of JTF led by Lt. Col. Ifeayin Otu.
Head, Media Coordinating Centre of JTF, Lt. Col. Oyeama Nawachuckwu, in a statement, said the search operation at Ajudaibo in Warri South-West led to the recovery of five AK 47 magazines fully loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition each.
Destruction of refineries
In Edo, the destruction of refineries was in a village on the border between Edo and Ondo States. Several jerry-cans of petroleum products running into thousands of litres were found in the area.
However, the perpetrators and members of the community took to their heels when the soldiers arrived.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene of the operation, the Commander of Operation
Thunderstorm, Lt. Col. Moruf Adegbenru, said the operation became necessary to stop the activities of the people he described as economic saboteurs.
Group commends JTF
Meanwhile, Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group, WIPMG, Warri, Delta State, has commended the soldiers for arresting three suspects with five loaded AK 47 guns and 204 rounds of ammunition during a raid on suspected oil thieves in Warri area of the state.
Similarly, though supporting the actions to rid the creeks of illegal operations, a community leader, Mr. Isaac Botosan, has said their grouse with the JTF operatives was that instead of going into the creeks, where perhaps these activities are taking place, the soldiers entered into the living quarters of Ugborodo, harassing and chasing residents, both old and young into the bush, noting that many community engine boats and those of individuals used for their daily legitimate businesses had been carted away.
Chairman of WIPMG, Mr. Paul Bigha, meanwhile, has urged security agents in the area to carry out a thorough investigation aimed at exposing and punishing those involved in the crime.
It urged the Nigerian Army, Oil Facility Surveillance Limited and other agencies saddled with the responsibility of policing oil facilities in the Niger Delta to continue with their good work.
Mr. Botosan, on his part, said: “We want them to destroy any illegal refinery at their operational base. They do not operate inside the community. The soldiers should restrict their actions to the refineries in the creeks.
Burning peoples’ private legitimate articles of trade and boats, including what rightly belong to the community is unacceptable to us. Ugborodo is not a bunkering community.”