The Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield Thursday said it would set up an investigative panel on the alleged involvement of some soldiers in allegations of oil theft in Rivers State.
The Coordinator of the Joint Media Coordinating Office of the JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed this in Yenagoa, while briefing journalists on the incident, alleged that the soldiers in question notwithstanding were on legitimate duties when they had altercations with the people that accused them of engaging in product theft.
According to him, the panel of inquiry ordered by the Commander of the JTF, Major General Bata Debiro, is expected to be headed by the Commander of Sector 2 and will investigate if the accused soldiers attached to the 29th Battalion are culpable in the alleged theft of petroleum product identified as Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK).
Nwachukwu said though the accused soldiers were on official duties and deployed to the area by their Commanding Officer, Col. Peter Mala, the claims that they were involved in the theft of petroleum product in the area would still be investigated.
"Contrary to perception and false alarm by the team of Hydro Carbon Pollution Restoration project which culminated in the unconfirmed report, the soldiers were officially detailed to protect an NNPC pipeline that was vandalised in the mentioned area," he said.
Oyeama pointed out that the deployment of soldiers followed a tip off at about 2.20 a.m. on February 6, noting that following the tip off and inspection visits by the combined teams of senior personnel of the Intelligence and military, "soldiers were deployed to protect the vandalized point against those who wants to scoop the product."
"Though the protection of the damaged site includes preventing unauthorised persons from accessing the facilities, the soldiers had stopped the visiting HYSERP delegation from accessing the location and the denial of access by soldiers must have angered the team and triggered the erroneous perception that the soldiers were involved in a theft," he said.