Port Harcourt — The Joint Taskforce operating in the Niger Delta, codenamed Operation Delta Safe, OPDS, has disagreed with indigenes of Ke community in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, on the recent killings recorded in the area, allegedly caused by activities of oil thieves.
This is as some members of Ke community, in the last one week have raised series of alarm, alleging continuous attacks on the community by men of the JTF, in the area.
An indigene of Ke Community, Mr. Daibi Ekine, claimed that the attackers are members of the Military Taskforce, setup to monitor illegal oil bunkering activities in the water ways.
Ekine alleged that the manner of the attack confirms that some prominent members of neighbouring community, Bille have hijacked the Taskforce with a view to extinguish any perceived enemy.
“Considering that this attack, like previous ones was unprovoked, Bille Community, under the cover of JTF, which is coordinated by Labrador Security, a company owned by a chieftain of Bille Community, known as Abeji, is seeking to make Ke go extinct.
“Abeji had earlier led the Taskforce to Ke and ordered them to kill everyone in the community and burn everything down, Agbeji was also seen in the night of the attack commandeering the attack.
“How can a military man allow a civilian to carry arms and open fire on civilians? I think the Bille people are attacking other communities under the cover of fighting illegal oil bunkering.” Mr Ekine alleged.
He also recalled that last year Agbeji, through the same Labrador Security, misled the Military to burn down KalaekuleamaKalaekuleama, one of the communities that make up Ke Kingdom, saying that “this is in addition to several other invasion Ke community spear-headed by the people of Bille, which started with their first invasion of Ke in 2001 that left over 25 persons, including children and women, dead.”
Also speaking, another indigene of Ke, Chief Peters, said that the people of Ke community had envisaged this development when Agbeji was put in charge of security in the area, but nothing was done.
“We had sent delegates to meet with Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva in Abuja, because of this same hostile nature of Agbeji and his group against Ke territory, all in the name of wiping out illegal bunkering camps, but, as it turned out, nothing was done”, he said.
But in a swift reaction, the JTF Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe, have described the allegations by members of Ke community as untrue and baseless, saying that the JTF is guided by extant regulations.
Spokesman, Operation Delta Safe, Major Jonah Unuakhalu, explained that it was suspected militants and sea pirates in Ke community who actually opened fire on sighting operatives of the JTF, who were patrolling the area against illegal oil bunkering.
Unuakhalu disclosed that the same Ke community last year, had raised the same false alarm when makeshift houses where illegal refined products were discovered and destroyed.
He urged law abiding citizens to go about their legitimate businesses, maintaining that the allegations by members of the community should be disregarded, as OPDS is committed to safe guarding national critical assets, lives and properties in the region.
“The attention of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) has been drawn to the allegations by Ke Community, calming that some person’s within the community was using the personnel of OPDS to eliminate perceived enemies. This allegations is not only untrue but baseless as the operation is guided by extant regulations.
“To set the records straight, on Tuesday 11 February 2020, at about 1400hrs own troops of OPDS deployed at Bille, in conjunction with personnel of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp and Staff of Labrador left for anti-illegal oil bunkering patrol at Ke Community in Degama LGA of Rivers State.
“During the patrol, own troops came under fire from suspected militants/sea pirates within the community. The resilent troops were able to subdue their attackers forcing them to withdraw in disarray.
“OPDS was activated with the mandate ‘To protect oil and gas infrastructure and deter/prevent militancy, sea robbery, crude oil theft and other forms of criminality within the Joint Operation Area that could impact negatively on economic activities in the Niger Delta.’
“To this end, the allegations are baseless and should be disregarded as there is no iota of truth in it. OPDS is committed to safe guarding national critical assets, lives and properties within the Niger Delta region.”