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Navy, JTF are part of illegal bunkering, oil theft in Niger Delta ―IYC

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President of IYC worldwide, Pereotubo Oweilaemi Esq (middle) with NUJ Delta chairperson, Comrade Mike Ikeogwu.

THE umbrella union of all Ijaw youths worldwide, the Ijaw National Congress (IYC), has unequivocally alleged that the Nigerian Navy and members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) are part and parcel of the unceasing and lucrative stealing of crude oil in the Niger Delta region.

This is coming 24 hours after a coalition of Niger Delta Civil Society activists and the Niger Delta Environmental Protection group in a protest in Abuja requested the sack of commander of the JTF codenamed Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Sulaiman.

They had accused Rear Admiral Sulaiman of aiding and abetting the worsening case of economic sabotage, oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing of crude oil which they have been heavily paid to exterminate in the region.

President of IYC worldwide, Pereotubo Oweilaemi Esq, during a press briefing on Saturday with members of the Warri Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) at the secretariat in Warri, Delta State, said it was unfortunate that the security agencies usually pointed accusing fingers on ordinary Niger Deltans of being involved in oil theft.

The Ijaw youth leader made the allegation while responding to an accusation that the OPDS commander, Rear Admiral Suleiman’ Apochi, had blamed youths, communities and other stakeholders for conniving with criminals to perpetuate illegal oil bunkering, illegal refineries and oil theft, which he said was prolonging the fight against the menace.

In a one-minute documentary from the Defence Headquarters on Niger Delta Television Jungle (English) 2018 given to some national television stations to air, the JTF said the youths, oil host communities and other stakeholders should stop conniving with illegal oil refinery criminals in order to end further pollution of the environment.

But the IYC president, Oweilaemi opined that though the responsibility of the JTF and especially the Nigerian Navy was to constitutionally look after the economic assets, they’re actually the ones in the know of the stealing of every drop of crude oil and other illegality ongoing in the region.

“It’s unfortunate that the Nigerian Navy, who is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of looking after the waterways and arrest people involved in illegal oil bunkering are pointing accusing fingers to ordinary citizens who do not have what it takes to secure and police the waterways.

“The Navy’s responsibility is to ensure that there’s no illegal bunkering in our waterways.

“But I must tell you today that security agencies, particularly the JTF is part of illegal bunkering in Nigeria and the Niger Delta.

“I have it on good authority that there’s no drop of oil that passes by in the Niger Delta without the JTF or Navy being in the know of it,” Oweilaemi insisted.

According to him, the situation was not so before 2015 when former militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo was manning the waterways and oil assets under a Federal Government contract.

“When Tompolo was in charge of monitoring and securing pipelines, there was peace in the region and oil installations were safe and that amounted to increase in crude oil production.

The Ijaw youth leader stated that people of the region, especially the youths, have been trying their best to halt oil theft and illegal refinery which is currently endangering the health of people in Rivers State through the emission of carbon soot from illegal refineries.

He slammed the Navy and JTF for collecting huge monies from the FG for the fight against oil theft and yet doing little to justify the investment.

“The Navy cannot, on their own complacency, accuse the Ijaw or Niger Delta people of not doing enough to arrest illegal oil bunkering.

“The JTF which the navy high command is part of should be brought to book. Why is it that government is spending so much money thy that they are saying that there’s no illegal bunkering or oil theft in their presence?

“You’ll see illegal oil bunkering everywhere and that’s why it’s as a result of oil theft and oil bunkering that you have soot Rivers State, which is very hazardous to human lives in Rivers State.

“And if care is not taken, the soot that you see in Rivers State will spread to other parts of the Niger Delta,” he noted.

The IYC leader, who called on the FG to restore the contract of pipeline surveillance in the region to Tompolo in order to further guarantee the increase in crude oil production, urged the National Assembly to abort the bill on water regulation and Petroleum Information Bill.

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He also called on the Chief of Army Staff to reorganise and take a second look at the JTF, insisting that members of the military formation have turned themselves into businessmen and contractors.

The United Nations, he also pleaded, should mobilize the international community to assist Rivers State in arresting the soot pollution menace constituting health hazards to the people.

Meanwhile, Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS DELTA), Commodore Joseph Dewu, when contacted on phone on Saturday did not pick calls neither did he respond to a text message sent to his mobile line.

Dewu, however at the Naval Base in Warri on Thursday, warned that the Nigerian Navy would not relent in its efforts against illegal operations on the waterways, advising those who seek to go into crude business do so legally.

“My advice to them is that they should desist from carrying out these illegal activities. If they want to go into the oil business, there are proper ways they can do that. Nothing will stop us from getting them arrested because this is our work. Stay away from illegalities,” Dewu had said.

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