The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code named Operation Pulo Shield, has lamented what it described as community shielding of crude oil thieves in the region, and what he called the ineptitude of oil company surveillance contractors in the region.
Disclosing this in an interview in Yenegoa, Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the active involvement or shielding of participants in the illicit trade by communities encouraged the criminality in the region, adding that that oil thieves had converted communities in the region to depots where they stored illegally refined crude oil in drums.
According to him, the practice of storing inflammable stolen products under the protection of the communities had compelled the task force to initiate advocacy programme to sensitise the communities on the inherent dangers of such practice.
“The JTF is faced with a handful of challenges militating against its efforts to combat oil theft in the Niger Delta. In the course of our efforts to eradicate oil theft in the region, it was discovered that several individuals in the communities were actively involved in the illegal business or shielding saboteurs who vandalism pipelines and flow stations for reasons of grievances they hold against some oil companies.
“The situation can best be appreciated when you imagine how some people convert their soak away pits into reservoirs to store stolen crude oil. This awful discovery prompted the JTF to initiate advocacy programme to sensitize the communities”.