BY SAMUEL OYADONGHA
YENAGOA — The Joint Task Force in Niger Delta codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, yesterday, said its operatives have intercepted two self-propelled barges prowling around Bonny anchorage in Rivers State without the necessary registration documents indicative of their activities in the waterways of the Niger Delta.
Spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed this in a statement in Yenagoa also announced the discovery of three new illegal crude oil loading points as well as the seizure of seven Cotonou boats laden with stolen crude oil along the creeks of Bayelsa State.
His words: “The two self-propelled barges were intercepted by operatives of the anti-oil-theft patrol team of 146 Battalion of Sector 2 of the JTF during a recent anti-oil-theft patrol operation that saw the troops comb the general maritime area of Peterside, Kalaibiama community, Bonny anchorage and Onne.
“During the interrogations that followed, the crew members on board the barges christened MT ASKJA and MT IBINABO failed to tender the required documents and could not explain their mission in the water ways.
“The six crew members and the barges have been taken into custody for preliminary investigations.”
The statement added that in another operation, the anti-oil-theft patrol team of 343 Regiment of Sector 2 of the JTF operating along Akasa and Sangana Rivers of Bayelsa State have intercepted seven Cotonou boats (two at Igbematoru, three at Oyeregbene and one each at Lagosbene and Mbikiba) containing stolen crude oil.
He said during the operation, the troops also discovered three new illegal crude oil loading points, one each at Igbematoru, Oyeregbene and Mbikiba respectively.
The Commanding Officer, 343 Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Adamu Mukhtar, according to the statement, called on Nigerian Agip Oil Company to carry out an assessment on the discovered illegal loading points with a view to sealing the point.
In Delta State, he said troops of 3 Battalion Anti-Oil-theft patrol squad of Sector 1 of the JTF on patrol also discovered and scuttled nine illegal crude oil distillation camps in Gbekebor, Okpogbene, Isaba, Agedeben and Ajudaibo general area in Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state where illegal bunkerers connected a pipe from a wellhead to a large Cotonou boat.
According to the statement, “10 large plastic reservoirs, 20 drums, 15 metal surface tanks, 25 crude oil cooking ovens, 11 pumping machines, 5 welding machines and several networks of hoses were also scuttled in the camps.
“The troops also arrested 6 suspected illegal oil bunkerers with 6 Cotonou boats loaded with product suspected to be illegally distilled Automated Gas Oil. Eleven Cotonou boats were also scuttled by the patrol team at Aruton Open River also in Warri South West in Delta State.
“In the same vein, Anti-Oil-Theft patrol troops of 19 Battalion of Sector 1 of the JTF at Ekpemu community in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State have arrested two suspects caught reactivating a previously scuttled illegal oil bunkering and crude oil distillation camp.
“The suspects were arrested with two pumping machines and one welding machine while attempting to resuscitate the camp. In another development, the patrol team also arrested eleven suspects conveying illegally distilled petroleum products in 3 Cotonu boats at Otuama flow station, Warri North of Delta state.
“During the entire Anti Oil Theft operations twenty five oil theft suspects were taken into custody for preliminary investigations and would subsequently be handed over to relevant prosecuting security agencies at the conclusion of the investigation.”