The Commander of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta (Operation Pulo Shield), Major General Johnson Ochoga, has said that the formation has in the last two years reduced crude oil theft in the region by about 84 percent - from 9.5 million barrels to 1.5 million barrels.
Also Friday, a detachment of soldiers arrested two policemen and 20 others at the Marina Beach in Calabar, Cross River State, with three wooden boats and three buses loaded with drums of stolen fuel.
Ochoga who spoke yesterday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, after he formally announced his retirement from the Nigerian Army to the men under his command said the security campaign against crude oil theft in the region had been a huge success.
The JTF commander who handed over to Major General Bata Debiro said though the challenges were enormous added that "the men of the JTF did well within the mandate handed over to it by the Defense Headquarters" for an end to the theft of crude oil, sea piracy and other crimes along the creeks and waterways of the region.
He said: "The terrain is different, not because of the waters, but because of the length these oil thieves can go to achieve their nefarious act. If you want to sustain the fight, you must be alive. We have done well so far. In term of discipline, there is no organization that is devoid of black sheep. But we have sustained our zero tolerance to crimes."
Debiro, the new commander of the JTF commended his predecessor and declared his readiness to sustain the battle against oil thieves and sea piracy in the region.
In his report in 2012 on the activities of the command, Ochoga said the JTF arrested 1,945 suspects while 18 ocean going Vessels used in transporting stolen crude oil were seized.
He said that 7,585 anti-illegal bunkering patrols were conducted by my men along the creeks of the region in 2012, while 133 barges, 1,215 boats, 187 tankers trucks, 178 illegal fuel dumps and five surface tanks were destroyed.
"Also destroyed were 36,504 drums of illegally refined products, 638 pumping machines and 326 outboard engines. Thirty-eight of the suspects were foreign nationals from Ghana, India, Lebanon and other countries of Asia and Europe."
During the clampdown on oil thieves in Calabar yesterday, one of the policemen allegedly involved in the illegal activity escaped, but a second policeman, one Sergeant Sunday Kamalu was arrested.
Soldiers from the 13 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Calabar, alongside Sector 3 of Operation Pulo Shield acting on intelligence report, swooped on the Marina Beach area at about 1am to effect their arrest at the point of loading the products.
The arrest confirms earlier allegations that some unscrupulous policemen in Calabar had been conniving with thieves to siphon petroleum products from the NNPC jetty at Ekorinim where the corporation has its tank farm.
Also arrested yesterday was the owner of MRS Petrol Station located on Mayne Avenue in Calabar South, alleged to be the receiver of siphoned fuel and a major collaborator in oil bunkering in Calabar South, Akpabuyo and Bakassi local government areas.
Sergeant Kamalu in an interview said he and his partner were serving at the Cross River State Police Command headquarters at Diamond Hill, Calabar Municipal Council but that they were at the MRS filling station on official guard duty.
The owner of the filling station where the suspects delivered some of the drums of diesel to, Elder Edet Effiong is said to be undergoing interrogation at the Brigade headquarters.