The JTF Commander, Maj.-Gen. Bata Debiro, said this after an assessment tour of JTF’s operational bases in Bonny, Rivers.
Debiro said that the arrests were made only in its “Sub-sector Five” areas, which covered Andoni, Bonny and Gokana local government areas in Rivers, between April 2012 and July 2013.
He claimed that some of the vessels and badges were laden with stolen crude oil and Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, when they were apprehended.
Debiro said that eight out of the 17 seized metal badges had been destroyed, while others were still undergoing investigations.
The JTF commander, however, did not disclose the number of arrests made during the time under review.
He said that his visit was aimed at carrying out a surveillance of the JTF’s operational areas and ascertaining the readiness of the JTF troops to fight against oil theft and related crimes.
Debiro, however, said that the JTF operations in the region would improve appreciably if the task force was provided with modern equipment which could be used to track pipelines and illegal bunkering activities.
“Multinational oil companies can assist us with provision of modern technologies and equipment to complement the efforts of our troops who were deployed to protect oil pipelines installations.
“The equipment will enhance our operations because it will alert us about pipelines that are being vandalised in real time and, therefore, guarantee the quick response of our troops to the scene.
“The provision of the equipment will further improve our policing of pipelines and could ultimately lead to the end of pipeline vandalism in the country,” he said.
Debiro, however, rejected allegations that some JTF personnel were involved in illegal oil bunkering activities in the Niger Delta.
He said that the JTF’s personnel were constantly monitored, adding that they were also aware of the zero-tolerance policy of the Army toward corrupt practices.
He stressed that any member of the task force, who was involved in corrupt practices, would be severely dealt with, in accordance with the Army’s code of conduct.
Debiro, nonetheless, said that the JTF had recorded several successes in its operations, pledging that it would not relent in efforts to apprehend and prosecute individuals and groups that were involved in oil theft and related crimes.
Debiro called on community leaders and the public to provide the JTF with timely information which could lead to the arrest of oil thieves and pipeline vandals.
He solicited continued media collaboration with the JTF, saying that this would aid the fulfilment of the campaign against oil theft and allied criminal activities in the Niger Delta region.