As the Joint (Military) Task Force in the Niger Delta, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield takes stock of its oprations in the outgoing year, the Commander, Maj.-Gen. Bata Debiro, has said the outfit arrested no fewer than 1,857 suspected oil thieves and destroyed 1,951 illegal refineries.
Speaking while briefing reporters on the operational activities of the outfit for 2013 in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital on Tuesday night, the JTF Commander said that during the year under review, the JTF also carried out 1,025 anti-illegal oil bunkering patrols.
He said during those patrols, the outfit impounded 81 barges, 1,117 Cotonou boats, 82 tanker trucks and 1,873 surface tanks.
Debiro added that 39,760 drums of illegally refined petroleum products, 570 pumping machines and 75 outboard motor engines used as equipment to facilitate oil theft were seized and destroyed.
He also said 46 vessels of various sizes and capacities were also arrested during the period.
The above mentioned feat was achieved by the JTF through constant patrols based on credible intelligence obtained from various sources, particularly higher headquarters, other components of the JTF, informants and good citizens, Debiro said.
“In spite of the difficult environment in which it operates, the JTF has recorded modest successes, although still confronted with a handful of challenges and constraints”, he stated.
“These challenges were inadequate maritime platforms, insufficient operational vehicles, lack of some essential kits and insufficient manpower.
“The task force is however optimistic that most of these challenges will soon be addressed through the efforts of Chief of Defence Staff, Defence Headquarters and the National Economic Council intervention plan initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan”.
He expressed optimism that the JTF could permanently stamp out illegal bunkering in the region provided personnel were well equipped and the logistical challenges facing the outfit were fully addressed.
He also praised the gallant effort of his officers and men for their diligence in the fight against oil theft, piracy and other criminal activities in the region.
“We can stop illegal bunkering in our country. Afterall, it was started by someone. But this cannot be fully achieved if the logistical challenges facing the JTF are not addressed”, he added.