A group, League of Civil Society Groups (CSOs), the umbrella body of over 280 CSOs from all over Nigeria, has reacted to reports in some national dallies by Coalition of Youth Leaders from the Niger Delta, under the auspices of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Council, alleging that the commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi is involved in shoddy crude oil deals in collaboration with multinationals.
The group's president, Kamal Adefila and Secretary, Fisayo Olubayo made this known during a press conference in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Monday.
According to the group, "It is rather ridiculous that such a claim would emanate from a group purporting to represent the interests of the people of the Niger Delta when the troops of Operation Delta Safe have been able to combat the menace of oil theft, significantly reducing it."
"The troops have conducted themselves with the highest levels of respect for host communities and maintained decorum and dignity in their assignment, which is unprecedented in military civil relations in Nigeria. To suggest that an organ of the military that has battled oil theft to a virtual standstill would be involved in oil theft is rather curious, begging the question of the motive of those responsible for such malicious lies."
"The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has come up with the most robust plan of action on the Niger Delta, with the Vice President touring all communities in the troubled region to engage and come out with a people driven programme for development to engender lasting peace and sustainable environmental management. All well meaning Niger Deltans made valuable contributions to that process and all stakeholders would do well to continue to engage with government and it's agencies toward rebuilding the region."
"Rear Admiral Apochi has distinguished himself over the course of his exceptional and selfless service to Nigeria and has never been found to be involved in any illegality or untoward activities. Any attempt to drag the person of Rear Admiral Apochi into any needless controversies is dead on arrival and would not gather any traction whatsoever as it is devoid of facts," Adefila said.
He continued, "We urge Rear Admiral Apochi not to be distracted by these baseless accusations, but to continue to sustain the positive momentum that he and hit troops have built in the fight against all forms of criminality in the Niger Delta region. It would be foolhardy to expect that these elements wouldn't fight back even in the face of certain defeat at the hands of the re-energized troops of Operation Delta Safe."
"We call on the well-meaning people and leaders of the Niger Delta region to continue to engage and channel their genuine grievances to the appropriate quarters, while government moves forward with its plans for the development of the people and infrastructure of the Niger Delta region. While we will continue to demand for equitable use of all Nigeria's resources for the empowerment of all Nigerians, we will not fail to acknowledge the efforts being made towards attaining the Niger Delta and Nigeria of our dreams, the president added.