OIL THEFT: Sack JTF Commander Now, Niger Delta Youth Leaders Tell Buhari, Finger Foreigners, Oil Barons

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Leaders of the Niger Delta youths, under the umbrella of the Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Council, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately fire the commander, Joint Military Task Force (JTF), code named: “Operation Delta Safe”, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman for allegedly involved in the aiding and abating of oil theft in the region.

Addressing a press conference on Friday, in Warri, Delta state, the leadership of the group led by its President, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, who is also the President, Ijaw Youth Council (Worldwide) and the
Secretary of the group, Bassey Hensaw, on behalf of other 18 Presidents of the Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth, accused oil barons and some foreigners of stealing the nation’s crude oil with “fake voucher from the NNPC”.

The youth leaders, stressed that the JTF has failed in its mandate to rid the region of illegal oil bunkering, lamenting that the illicit trade started at the time of oil boom in the 70s, but the trend became worsen following the involvement of security agencies working in connivance with some cabal.

“Under the watch of the JTF Commander, Niger Delta environment is being bastardized daily by illegal bunkerers who are purportedly being protected by the soldiers. The Joint Military Task Force (JTF), code named: “Operation Delta Safe” is to curb oil theft among other sundry security issues in the Niger Delta, but now encouraging illegal bunkering activities in the region.

“What the JTF does is to go about blaming its adverse effects on the pauperised oil bearing communities, whereas they are the ones “aiding and abetting the major culprits. The economic sabotage being perpetrated by the JTF under the command of Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi in the name of securing the nation’s crude oil facilities informed this conference.

“The said illegal bunkering activities are taking place in our terrains which have hitherto destroyed our biodiversity. Therefore, we are in a better position to tell the world who and who is actually involved in it. The JTF is collaborating with some powerful forces and foreigners to steal crude from the nation’s oil asset.

“There are high level illegal bunkering activities in the region being carried out by some powerful forces in the Country in collaboration with foreigners. Oil tankers are coming to the region with “fake voucher from the NNPC to load crude oil with the gleeful eyes of the JTF.

“The lost in crude oil outputs daily to the illegal bunkering activities are as a result of these foreign invaders” they youth leaders alleged. Everyday the JTF has been accusing the local communities of oil theft but to our chagrin, it has not spoken about the high level illegal bunkering activities of these economic saboteurs in the high sea which the military is aware of.

“We make bold to say that the military Joint Task Force is part of the cabals that are sabotaging our economy. If the security forces are not offering protection/escort services to those allegedly responsible for oil thefts then why movements of vessels with those stolen crude have not been detected?

“Why is it that vessel movements of the oil thieves occurs unnoticed in the region despite heightened activities in large scale illegal bunkering in the midst of an increased security presence?”

“Also in Nembe in Bayelsa State and other coastal communities across the region are being flooded with the illegal bunkering activities with an identified trunk lines that have been pigeonholed by the oil thieves to siphon the oil.

“It is disheartening that foreigners can enter the nation’s coast without entry permit to carryout illegal activities yet the security agencies keep aloof to these day time robbery”. the youth body noted.

Meanwhile in a statement read out to Journalists, on behalf of the group by the President, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, said that the purpose for which the Task Force was created has been defeated since it has failed to secure the nation’s oil facilities.

“Federal Government has been wasting billions of naira on the security agencies to protect the oil facilities in the region but what the government gets in return is steady lost of crude oil outputs daily to saboteurs. It is unacceptable for the federal government to keep servicing the JTF with tax payers money in spite of the broad day robbery of the oil outputs, with no single high profile arrest of the illicit oil barons.

“It is risky for the nation and a waste of the taxpayers’ money for the government to keep the present security personnel in the region. We demand that Rear Admiral Apochi should be removed from his vintage position having comprised his office. We have it on good authority that the security agencies have recruited some miscreants who called themselves as federal Task force to be mediating with these bunkerers on behalf of the JTF”.

On claims that they were being sponsored by an oil company to champion the removal of the JTF commander, Mr. Oweilaemi denied such claims, adding that ” The issue came to it head because the JTF only scapegoat poor youths in the region who are also engaged in oil theft and leave out the influential merchants from Abuja and Lagos who sponsor the illegal activities.”

The group however maintained that Nigeria is currently in grave danger to external invasion because, JTF had been allegedly allowing foreigners access to the shores of Nigeria to transact this illegal business, saying that “There is need to overhaul the security architectures in the region especially now that elections are fast approaching.”

“Niger Delta region is not secure from external invasion because illegal immigrants have been entering our coast to transact this illegal business with their Nigerian counterparts.”, demanding that the security of the oil facilities should be handed over to host communities in partnership with security agencies.

HardReporters would recalled that another Niger Delta group had before now staged a mass protest in Abuja where it demanded for the immediate sack of the naval Officer as the Commander of the Special Task Force (STF) in the Niger Delta, alleging that the military chief was aiding and abating oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing in the area.

Meanwhile as at the time of filing in this report, all efforts to contact the JTF spokesperson to the JTF command, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, were not successful.

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