The Commander of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named Operation Pulo Shield, Major General Alani Okunola, yesterday disclosed that the task force was closing in on those behind the bombing of pipelines belonging to the Nigeria Gas Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited and Nigeria National Petroleum Company, NNPC.
Okunola vowed that the perpetrators would be identified and arrested by the JTF.
Tension has been building up in the volatile Niger Delta in recent times over the bench warrant of arrest issued against a former militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo for failing to appear in court for trial on a N34bn fraud.
The three-day bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines in Delta State, which started on Thursday, has been perceived as the militants’ response to the plan to arrest Tompolo.
However, the JTF commander, who led his troop to inspect one of the blown up pipelines at Egwa II community in Warri South West, said henceforth, the army would hold community leaders in whose domain such bombing took place responsible for any act of sabotage in their area.
He said that the Federal Government would do all it can to bring the saboteurs of the national assets to book as they were already closing in on the criminals.
Major General Okunola further said that henceforth, security agencies would enforce the extant law banning the use of outboard engines with 200 HP and above.
He said the Federal government would not condone any act of sabotage in the country, noting that it would deal ruthlessly with those behind the dastardly act.
While describing the blowing up of pipelines as not only criminal but also capable of undermining the national security, Maj.-Gen. Okunola pleaded with government officials and community leaders to give JTF and other security agencies in the region useful information that would lead to arrest of the perpetrators for prosecution.
According to him, “We are going to fish out those responsible. It was a massive sabotage and critical to national assets. There is no way we will fold our hands and allow the perpetrators to get away with it.
“We do not have our men deployed in the area that is why they have the opportunity to do it”.
The JTF commander said it was sad for anyone to put the nation in jeopardy by blowing up its national assets.
He assured Niger Delta residents of JTF’s determination to wipe out all acts of illegalities in the region.