The Joint Task Force, JTF, code named Operation Pulo Shield, Saturday, launched an operation along the creeks and waterways of Delta and Bayelsa states, leading to the seizure of three vessels and destruction of 362 illegal refineries.
The operation was carried out simultaneously in the Kolokolo, Bisigo, Igbomatoru, Sagana areas of the two states.
Also raided by the men of the JTF were the Ogbokodo creek and the Ugbokolo area of Delta State.
Many of the indigenes of the area panicked at the sight of armed soldiers and heavy gun boats, but were assured by the soldiers of their safety.
The spokesperson for the JTF in the region, Lt. Col. Oyeama Nwachukwu, said the action was new as it is part of the strategy of the newly deployed commander, Major General Bata Debiro.
"The operation led to the destruction of 362 illegal oil cooking ovens usually referred to as local refineries in Kolokolo area and Bisigbo in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State; Igbomatoru, in Ijaw South Local Government and Sangana in Bayelsa State,"Nwachukwu stated.
"Three vessels and seven barges engaged in oil theft were also scuttled by troops of the JTF in Opobo River, Bonny Local Government of Rivers State and Tomkiri in Brass Local Government of Bayelsa state."
"The operation also led to the scuttling of 75 wooden boats (Cotonu boats) conveying illegally siphoned petroleum products at Ogbokodo creek and Ugbokolo areas of Warri South West of Delta state. 175 suspects were arrested in the operation and handed over to prosecuting agencies for litigation."
The JTF spokesman also noted that the new commander of the JTF, Debiro, had unfolded his strategy to stamp out illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta.
"The new commander averred that he would be highly mobile and fluid in the fight against illegal oil bunkering. He stated that sitting like a lame duck in the office is not his approach and had already embarked on an appraisal tour of troops' deployments including Naval Forward Operational Bases (FOB) in Brass, Bonny, and Escravos. The tour also took him to Nigerian Navy Ship Delta in Warri, and to amphibious troops of 3 and 146 Battalions and 343 Regiment of Nigerian Army deployed in Warri, Bonny Island and Nembe respectively,"he said.
"The commander of the multi-agency security outfit, while on courtesy visit to military formation commanders, security agencies and traditional rulers' council in Bayelsa State Capital, Yenagoa during the week, General Debiro stated, unequivocally, that his mission is portrayed in the four-word directive of President Goodluck Jonathan to the task force to 'STOP ILLEGAL OIL BUNKERING'.
"Nigeria is the only country where people engage in oil theft with the connivance of our countrymen and we must put an end to it".