In light of the rising cases of oil theft in the Niger Delta region, which has been put at about 400,000 barrels daily, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, has warned perpetrators to desist or be ready to face the wrath of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He gave the warning on Friday while inaugurating the permanent complex of the Joint Task Military Force codenamed Operation Pulo Shield headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Badeh lamented that oil theft, kidnapping and other criminal activities were still on the increase in the region despite the existence of an amnesty programme.
He said, “Criminalities in the Niger Delta, we thought, have stopped but now they are on the rise again. But I know that our gallant men and women are equal to the task.
“We are after the bad men; we are good men and darkness can never overtake light. No nation can develop in the presence of so much criminality.
“Now we are hearing that people are taking up arms here and there; kidnapping is on the rise, oil theft is on the rise, going by the last seizure of a ship loaded with 15,000 metric tons of illegal properties.
“The military was here before and we reached a simple agreement to down tools to work together for the benefit of our nation. We want to tell the criminals that they should not allow us to turn our guns back to the Niger Delta. Please, do not let the Armed Force turn its arsenal on the Niger Delta”.
Badeh said the military had received major platforms and other hardware for the Navy, stressing that naval operatives were stationed in the blue waters.
The CDS, who appealed to youths in the region to operate within the ambits of the law, said the JTF had received added capabilities to combat all manner of criminalities in the region.
In his remarks, the JTF Commander, Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, stated that the JTF was a product of the defunct Operation Restore Hope, which was earlier established to check criminal activities in the region with headquarters in Warri, Delta State.
Atewe pointed out that since his assumption as Commander of Operation Pulo Shield some months ago, the fight against oil theft had witnessed a tremendous boost.
He highlighted the destruction of over 1,000 illegal oil refineries, arrest and trial of several suspects, destruction of over 400 smuggling boats, and 20 trucks containing illegally refined products, among others as some of the successes recorded under his watch.
Scores of suspects have also been arrested in connection with oil theft, he added.
He said, “The idea to build a permanent complex was informed by the huge amount of money expended on rent by the Command over the years.
“May I thank the Chief of Defence Staff for donating 30 gun boats to the JTF and the Bayelsa State government for its cooperation with the JTF.
“The new JTF Complex occupies over 8 acres of land comprising of officers’ accommodation, residential apartments for officers and men, sports and fitness centre, medical facilities and officers mess”.