Fifty-eight suspected criminals, including alleged operators of illegal refineries and some unrepentant militants in Edo and Delta States, were Monday paraded by the Brigade Commander of the 4th Brigade, Nigerian Army, Benin City, Brig-Gen. Abel Umahi.
Parading the suspects, Umahi disclosed that men of the Anti-Crime Joint Patrol, code named, "Operation Thunderstorm", last week destroyed more than two thousand illegal refineries in the states.
Some of the suspects, who were paraded before Governor Adams Oshiomhole, at the Brigade headquarters in Benin-City, according to Umahi, were alleged to be involved in armed robbery, illegal oil theft and kidnapping, adding that majority of illegal refineries destroyed by his men were located in Delta State.
He disclosed that they were able to achieve success in battling the criminals due to intelligence reports and the assistance of both the Edo and Delta state governments.
According to him, the sophistication of some of the weapons captured from the criminals, including an anti-aircraft missile, machine gun bullets, dynamite and electricity cable wires, five AK 47 rifles, six magazines, one Mark 4 rifle, live cartridges, hammers and cutters, were shocking to the law enforcement agents.
He said several of the suspected criminals, including their leader one, Omoh Tonwerigha (aka Ayamineden), whom he described as an unrepentant militant in the Niger Delta, who escaped arrest, have been on security watch for some time.
His words: "They are sophisticated in their operations and many have been on our most wanted list for some time. We have carried out series of operations, but each time some of them elude us. We captured highly sophisticated weapons from the criminals, including GPMG bandoliers, which means they have the weapon, but we were not able to capture that from them.
"I am sure you must have been following our operations as it affect bunkering and illegal construction of refineries. In this past few days, we have destroyed more than 2, 000 illegal refineries in Edo and Delta States, especially in Delta."
"We have also destroyed more than 100 Cotonou boats, used in illegal bunkering, several full of condensates."
"I want to assure Nigerians that the Chief of Army Staff is ever ready through the promptings he gives us; we thank the COAS whose support has been immense to the success of our operations, we thank members of the public, who have been of support and we thank both the governors of Edo and Delta states," he said.
Stressing that the suspects would be handed over to appropriate authorities for prosecution, Umahi further noted: "we have decided to parade them before him (Governor Oshiomhole) and because the governor of Delta (Emmanuel Uduaghan) is not easily on ground here, he will see them on television. We restate our commitment to ensure there is peace in all the states. We will continue to ensure that crime is brought to a minimum acceptable level, because you cannot eradicate it completely."
Commending men of the anti-crime outfit, Oshiomhole said no one must be allowed to tamper with the cause of justice, by seeking to set free those caught involved in criminal acts, without following due process.
He said: "Nobody in Edo must interfere with the due process of law, so that you (security operatives) will not be discouraged in their work. Edo State will not surrender to men of the gun, and no person, no matter who he or she purports to be must be allowed to interfere in the prosecution of those arrested."