•Arrests 11 fleeing suspects
By Philip Nwosu
There appears to be no hiding place for pipeline vandals, as the anti-pipeline vandalism Joint Task Force (JTF) has identified four more camps of oil thieves in the Arepo area of Ogun State, which has been scheduled for air strike by fighter jets of the Nigerians Air Force.
This is coming at a time when the Joint Task Force has arrested 11 vandals fleeing from the areas under attack.
In a joint press conference in Lagos yesterday, Chairman of the “Operation Awatse” and Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, said through the surveillance gathered the military had identified four key targets.
According to him, the military will bomb the identified targets, which, “when knocked off, will set confusion in the militants and vandals’ camps.”
Recalling the operations in the last couple of days, he said after Nigeria Air Force’s Alpha jets and helicopters identified the targets, the task force invited all the agencies involved to do an after-battle assessment.
“We have seen the video that the reconnaissance aircraft have captured and we are very convinced that there is need to sustain the operation. We will continue to mop up the ground, as the Air Force continues to knock off target that we feel should be taken out.”
On progress made, Bobai said 11 suspects had been arrested and now being “processed,” adding: “We are profiling and interrogating them to get more clues that will assist us in the operation. All the security agencies are involved in this operation, to avoid infiltration of other areas by militants. The attack will not be limited to Arepo. If we get information that some of them have escaped to Lekki or other areas of Lagos, we will go after them.”
He revealed that the task force would set ablaze the thousands of jerry cans filled with stolen fuel, as captured by air force surveillance camera, since it is difficult to recover them.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Isidore Edet; the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Air Force Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Sani Ahmed; the Commander, 9 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Sani Mohammed; the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni; the Commandant, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Tajudeen Balogun; and the Director, Department of State Security Services (DSS) attended the briefing.
Although the navy chairs the JTF, the aerial bombardment, surveillance and reconnaissance is being carried out under the leadership of the AOC Logistics Command, AVM Sani Ahmed, who coordinates and guides the air component of the entire exercise.
With so many targets in the creeks, it was gathered that the vandals had set up observation posts, which are manned by their heavily armed duty guards.
The surveillance videos obtained by the NAF Beach craft (NAF 202), indicated that the vandals were heavily armed and carry the GPMG, mounted on their gunboats.
Meanwhile, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for authorising the ongoing military operation against oil thieves terorrising Ibafo, Ogijo and other neighbouring communities in the state.
Speaking yesterday, while visiting the affected communities, Amosun called on the Federal government to ensure that the creeks, especially areas hosting petroleum pipelines, were cleared for proper visibility.
The governor, who was appalled by the large number of jerry cans the hoodlums use to steal fuel from ruptured pipelines, noted that there was the need for the nation’s creek line to be cleared of shrubs and bushes that makes it attractive for hoodlums to hide and rupture pipelines.
He said: “We have gone round this place they say is the camp of the vandals, and I must say I feel sad, sad because some of us can deliberately be engaging in this type of economic sabotage.
“But I will advise the Federal Government to embark on a deliberate policy to clear our creeks. All the shrubs and bushes 500 metres of our creeks should be cleared.
As you can all see, this place is bushy and it is enough incentive to hoodlums to hide and operate. I want to believe this is how our creek is nationwide. We should be proactive and solve this problem.”
The governor, who was accompanied on the visit by the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Adekunbi Suraj; Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Taiwo Adeoluwa; Brigade Commander, 35th Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Ogun State; State Police Commissioner, Ahmed Illiyasu, and State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), expressed appreciation to the service chiefs for their focus and determination to rid the country of all forms of criminality.