By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—In a bid to stop the loss of over $15.8 billion to oil thieves operating in creeks of the Niger Delta, the Federal Government has ordered the Defence Headquarters to adopt new operational strategy in the region by expanding the coverage area of the Joint Task Force, to cover the nine states of the region.

The restructuring of the special security forces, which came into effect Monday, was to block the leakages and draining of the nation’s economy by oil thieves. It also led to the renaming of the task force, as Operation Pulo Shield. Pulo is an Ijaw word meaning oil, hence the new codename, Operation Pulo or Operation Oil Shield.

Spokesman of JTF, Lt Col .Timothy Antigha in a statement in Yenagoa, said the outfit had been expanded to include the National Intelligence Agency, Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, PICOMSS.

Others included were  the Nigerian Ports Authority, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the oil producing companies.

According to Antigha, the new operational order now cover the nine states of the region, including  Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.

The statement reads, “you are all aware that a couple of years ago, the Federal Government reconstituted the Joint Task Force, which hitherto existed in Rivers and Delta States, and tasked it principally to defeat militancy, which had threatened the nation’s economic survival.

“After three years, the JTF is happy to inform you that, that phase of its operation in the Niger Delta had been concluded, following the elimination of militancy and the threat of it, to a very significant extent.  You are aware that apart from cases of sundry crimes, which are present in every society, the Niger Delta is now economically viable and stable, security wise.

“However, the problems of illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft still remain and loom ominously.  Consequently, to confront and eliminate this problem, which is responsible for the loss of Federal Government revenue to the tune of $15.8 billion, the Defence Headquarters had directed the JTF to now focus on pipeline vandalism and associated economic crimes.

In this new phase, the mission of JTF will include, but not limited to; elimination of pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, illegal oil refining and illegal oil bunkering,” he added.

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