08 February 2013, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa – Authorities of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, code named Operation Pulo Shield has ordered the establishment of a panel of inquiry into alleged involvement of some soldiers in the theft of petroleum products at the Ososike area of Eleme Local Government area of Rivers State.
The Panel of Inquiry, ordered by the Commander of the JTF, Major General Bata Debiro, is expected to be headed by the Commander of Sector 2 and will determine if the accused soldiers attached to the 29 Battalion are culpable in the alleged theft of petroleum products identified to be Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK).
The Head of the Joint Media Coordinating Centre (JMCC), Lt. Col. Oyeama Nwachukwu, argued that, though the accused soldiers were on official duty and deployed to the area by their Commanding Officer, Col. Peter Mala, the claims that they were involved in the theft of petroleum product in the area were unconfirmed.
Briefing newsmen yesterday in Yenagoa, the media coordinator, Joint Task Force, Lt. Col Onyeama Nwachukwu said, “the attention of the JTf has been drawn to a reports in some national dailes titled ‘Sodliers caught stealing petroleum product in Rivers’. The report narrated how a team of the management of Hydro Carbon Poulltion Restoration Project (HYPERP) purportedly bumped into a group of eight soldiers allegedly siphoning Dual Purpose Kerosene at Ososike in Eleme council area of Rivers State. The soldiers were also alleged to have threatened the team if they dared to approach the location”.
“The JTF wishes to state categorically that contrary to the perception and false alarm raised by the team which culminated in the unconfirmed reports on the pages of national dailies, the soldiers were officially detailed to protect an NNPC pipeline that was vandalized in the area mentioned by their commanding officer, Col Peter Mala who commands the 29 Batallon located at Bori Camp, Port Harcourt.
“Following a tip off at about 2.30am on Wednesday February 6, 2013 troops of 29 Batallion deployed for the protection of a PPMC right-of-way discovered a dug point along KM 5 Eleme, Ogale in Rivers State. The PPMC pipeline was clamped with valves and 2 hoses attached to it.
“The hoses were rolled close to a building on the pipeline from where Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) was siphoned into plastic drums. Three drums filled with DPK we recovered from the scene, 18 empty drums, 2 hoses and 2 suspects were arrested and as I speak, are currently undergoing interrogation with operatives of Sector 2 intelligence detachment.
“The commanding officer accompanied by operatives of the intelligence and Military Police detachments, had earlier in the day, visited the same location to ascertain the act of vandalism and extent of damage. Armed with this information, soldiers were mobilized to secure the products and protect the point that had been vandalised against persons who may want to scoop from the site.
“The management of PPMC was also notified to rectify the damage. Suffice to note that protection also includes preventing unauthorized persons from accessing a protected facility. Since the soldiers in question did not have a prior knowledge of the of the tour location by HYREP, they prevented the team from accessing the location and from any visual coverage.
“It is believed that this denial of access by soldiers who though were legitimately carrying out their duties must have angered the team and triggered the erroneous perception that the soldiers were involved in theft.
“Meanwhile, the commander, Sector 2, who assumed command of office less than a week and whose aea of responsibility the incident occurred has given the commander JTF details this morning and a full inquiry has been ordered to determine if the soldiers attempted to compromise in any way.”