Delta State governor Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan yesterday indicted the security agencies in the Niger Delta, especially the Joint Task Force's "Operation Pulo Shield" over the increasing rate of crude oil theft and vandalism of oil pipelines in the region, particularly in his state.
Uduaghan, who spoke at a two-day Delta State Annual Oil and Gas Industry Conference in Warri, lamented the failure of JTF, especially the Nigerian Navy, which is one of the components of the interventionist security agency in the region, to curb oil theft and other sharp practices associated with crude oil in the state.
He expressed dismay that the JTF could not effectively and adequately secure only three entry and exit points through the sea to the state, a development which he said enabled the oil barons to operate unhindered, to the detriment of the nation's economy.
The governor also lamented the failure of the security agents to apprehend the oil barons operating in the state, adding that "one wonders why the Nigerian Navy could not provide adequate security in the three entries into the state to prevent oil thieves from moving stolen crude out of Delta State into the high seas where they embark on transloading into bigger vessels for export".
The governor, who declared the conference open, narrated his experience when he travelled by boat to a riverside community, adding that his team was subjected to a thorough search and scrutiny by the security agents stationed along the waterways.
He wondered why the security agents did not deploy similar energy in the war against crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the state.
Uduaghan said the task of policing the state, which has only three exit and entry points into the sea, should be less cumbersome when compared to Bayelsa State which has 35 exit and entry points into the sea.
Consequently, he urged the security agencies to buckle up and live up to their obligations to the country by effectively securing the nation's economic assets.
Also, in his remarks, the chairman of Itsekiri Regional Development Council (IRDC), Chief Ayirimi Emami, backed the governor, lamenting that "only three entry points exist in the state with military checkpoints scattered along the routes but oil thieves are still having a field day operating in Delta State".
Emami said the connivance of the security agents made it easy for the oil barons and their foot soldiers to operate without let or hindrance in the state.
Other stakeholders and speakers acknowledged the need for the host communities to assist in preventing vandalism of oil pipelines and the compelling responsibility of the oil companies to contribute to the development of their host communities.
The commandant-general of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr Ade Abolurin, said the security agency was inadequately equipped and poorly funded to tackle the menace of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.
Specifically, he revealed that the agency had only two pick-up vans to combat crimes in Delta State with 25 local government areas and pleaded with Uduaghan to assist the outfit with more vehicles to effectively operate in the state.
The flag officer commanding, Western Naval Command of Nigerian Navy, Rear-Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade, however, defended the security outfit and highlighted the efforts of the Navy in protecting the nation's oil and gas assets.
Alade called on the authorities to strengthen the laws against illegal oil bunkering as well as increase the funding of all the security agencies in order to guarantee optimal performance.