By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Suspected crude oil thieves operating in the Niger Delta have threatened to launch an attack on operatives of the Joint Task Force for destroying their â€œmeans of livelihood.â€
The fresh threat on the military personnel in the region is coming on the heels of latest onslaught on the stronghold of illegal bunkerers operating in some communities in Gokana local government area of Rivers State.
Between October and this month, the 104 Battalion of Sector 3 of the Joint Task Force has destroyed about 600 illegal refineries out of the 1,000 uncovered by the intelligence unit of the security outfit.
Commander of the Joint Task Force, Major General Sarkin Yakin Bello, who disclosed this in Yenagoa while briefing newsmen, however, warned all those involved in crude oil theft to desist forthwith or have themselves to blame.
The JTF commander, who said only yesterday he received a threat call from an anonymous caller, said:Â â€œMay I inform you that these criminals have reacted by threatening to attack JTF personnel for destroying their so-called â€œmeans of livelihood.”
â€œI seize this opportunity to advice them to desist from such plots. Rather, they should re-channel their talents to legitimate endeavours that will benefit not only themselves but their communities and the nation at large, because the JTF will continue to destroy illegal refineries and arrest their operators when found.â€
The JTF boss added, â€œIn the last two months, 104 Battalion of Sector 3 of JTF identified and destroyed about 600 illegal refineries. These illegal refineries were found in Wenol, Deyor, Kidere, Boobobari, Bodo, Biara, Kpor waterside and Bomu all in Gokana local government area of Rivers State.
JTF intelligence sources indicate that about 1000 illegal refineries are in operation in this general area.â€
Though the JTF commander noted that no arrests were made in the course of previous raids on the illegal refinery camps he however said on December 7, a raid by the JTF on an illegal refinery in Kidere community yielded result with the arrest if seven suspects and seizure of three motorcycles.
â€œThe seven suspects were arrested while siphoning crude oil from a damage oil well head. They will face the full weight of the law while the four wooden and two fibre boats used by the criminals were destroyed.
â€œAlso, a Mitsubishi L300 bus with registration number XT 555 PHC, containing six drums of substance suspected to be illegal refined diesel and three unregistered motorcycles were impounded at Bera community,â€ he said adding that the driver and other occupants of this bus absconded on sighting his men.
He however said a driverâ€™s licence belonging to a certain Samuel Morokpo, residing in Deyor community was found inside the vehicle.
â€œThis exercise also yielded 22 drums of illegal refined and adulterated petroleum products, 27 empty jerry cans and two steel funnels,â€ he noted and urged members of the public including the media to partner with the JTF in exposing crude oil thieves who are not only bleeding the nation economy but also destroying the environment.