The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named ‘Operation Pulo Shield’, said it has arrested 608 suspected oil thieves in 594 raids carried out between January and June.
The JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Yenagoa that oil theft was consequently on the decline. “So far, we have carried out 594 illegal oil bunkering patrols, and several arrests have been made. In the two quarters we are talking about, we’ve scuttled about 748 illegal refineries within the region and we have impounded 24 sea-going vessels; we equally arrested 133 barges involved in oil theft. And 861 giant open wooden boats popularly referred to as Cotonou boats have been scuttled over this period.
“About 910 large surface tanks, which oil thieves engaged in illegal refineries use to reserve the crude have been scuttled. We’ve taken into custody about 608 suspects who are involved in oil theft and oil theft related cases.”
On the rate of oil theft, which reportedly led to a combined shut-in of 190,000 barrels per day production in Bayelsa, Nwachukwu said that the JTF was making a positive impact. The spokesman said: “Of course, we stepped up our operational activities and I assure you that oil theft now is going down.
“Two major pipelines were shut down and before these pipelines were actually shut down, our patrol troops had reported breaches on these pipelines. And if the oil companies had reacted in time to these reports, the breaches would have been clamped, and it would not have resulted in this entire shut down of the pipelines. So, I would say that if you take overfly of the entire area, you will find that most of the illegal refineries that were in operation, that were alive in those days, have been shut down, completely; scuttled.” Nwachukwu said that the JTF was making progress in its campaign against oil theft because of support of residents and community leaders in the oil-bearing communities.
Information from Vanguard was used in this report.