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The joint task force in the Niger Delta, dubbed ‘Operation Delta Safe’, said its operations in Igbomotoru, in the southern Ijaw Local Government Council, Bayelsa state, were aimed at uprooting a large illegal crude oil refinery camp in the area.
He further assured that the JTF will spare no effort to exterminate all illegal refinery sites in the Niger Delta region to prevent the devastation and pollution of the valuable environment by artisanal operators in the production of petroleum products. .
Commander of the outfit, Rear Admiral Aminu Hassan, who made it known during a briefing to reporters at his headquarters in Igbogene, Yenagoa said the camp was led by a suspected notorious militant leader, Endurance Amaegbe.
During the operation, which began on June 22 this year, members of Operation Delta Safe arrested two suspects linked to an alleged militant leader who owned the illegal camp and seized some items from the illegal refinery site. from Igbomotoru.
Igbomotoru in the Ijaw Local Government Area of southern Bayelsa State has been in the news lately with community leaders alleging the invasion of the community by the army in collaboration with a company. pipeline watchdog and a multinational oil company operating in the area, accusing the soldiers of harassment of the natives and a few other excesses.
However, Hassan said the allegation was not the case as the deployment had nothing to do with the population but focused on the dismantling of an illegal crude oil refinery camp established in the forest of ‘Igbomotoru by an alleged militant leader who intimidated communities in southern Ijaw and other parts of Bayelsa State.
Hassan said a major pipeline carrying crude oil and other critical infrastructure had been repeatedly vandalized by the alleged militant and his group who were determined to operate the illegal refinery, a situation he called economic sabotage. from the country.
Leading journalists around the illegal crude oil refinery camp located about 1.5 kilometers from the main town of Igbomotoru, the commander of the 343rd Artillery Regiment, Elele, Lt. Col. Philemon Malgwi, who led the operation, said it started on June 22 this year to dismantle activities. suspected oil thieves who also terrorized people along the waterways.
He said the operation was not limited to Igbomotoru but also other southern Ijaw communities such as Ikebiri, Azuzuama and adjacent streams as a result of reports, information and intelligence gathered.
Journalists on a fact-finding mission to the House Boat on the Igbomotoru River saw two suspects reported as Amaegbe boys, who were arrested at the illegal refinery camp in the forest.
Other items seized during the operation were three fiber speedboats, a generator, mock camouflage military uniforms, mobile and cell phones, walkie-talkies and a pistol believed to belong to Amaegbe.
Meanwhile, residents of Igbomotoru last weekend called on federal and state governments to intervene and end an ongoing alleged invasion and harassment by military personnel and some armed youths in their homes. communities.
Traditional rulers, opinion leaders as well as youth and women leaders told a press briefing in Yenagoa that community assets were being destroyed as indigenous people live in palpable fear following the siege by soldiers and youths employed by a pipeline monitoring contractor for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) with the alleged connivance of a dethroned supreme leader of Igbomotoru.
Residents also denounced the alleged killings of their relatives by some of the armed youths.
Indigenous people from Igbomotoru communities 1 and 2 in the Ijaw local government area of southern Bayelsa state alleged that the invasion and attack by soldiers and armed youths working for the surveillance company, Darlon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, at the behest of NAOC, were allegedly provoked following a false report given by the dethroned supreme leader of the community, Chief Aseimiegha Ofongo.
According to them, the invasion by soldiers and armed youths in six gunboats, a barge and five speedboats of the contracting company, began on June 24 when residents’ houses, worship centers and other properties have been destroyed.
The acting supreme leader of the Igbomotoru One community, Chief Goodluck Alogodei, has alleged that under the dethroned supreme leader from 1997 to 2005, around nine youths lost their lives and 51 houses were razed as members of the community continue to live in fear following the invasion and unwarranted attacks. .
A law professor and senior lawyer from Nigeria, Festus Emiri, from Igbomotoru, said the whole crisis comes down to the divide and conquer policy deployed by the IOC to intimidate the community.
The community’s lawyer, Mr Stanley Damabide, said several letters had been written to the government and various security agencies, but the attacks continued.
In a reaction, Darlon Oil and Gas Limited said its attention has been drawn to the constant media trial of some Igbomotoru leaders who have consistently accused its management of being involved in a recent military operation in Igbomotoru communities.
A statement from Darlon Oil and Gas Limited Chairman, Chief Levi Wilson said that as a registered and responsible oil and gas company charged with deterring pipeline vandalism and crude oil bunkering activity, the company finds the repeated accusation that the management was involved in stationing a military base in Igbomotoru communities to intimidate, maim and kill the people of the community, as rather unfortunate and malicious.
He stressed that his legal team was carefully studying the press release issued to media across the country and would soon present Darlon Oil and Gas Limited’s position on the allegations.
He also warned those involved in attempts to tarnish the company’s image to desist immediately as the management of Darlon Oil and Gas Limited would not hesitate to take legal action against sponsors and actors. of the unfortunate smear campaign.
The company used this media to inform the general public that the said involvement of the management or staff in the military operation of the Igbomotoru community was not only false, but a figment of the imagination of some sponsors of the activities. crude oil bunkers who will only tarnish the company’s image and sideline it so they can vandalize crude oil facilities.
He said the clarification became necessary because his mandate was not to carry out military operations against crude oil thieves but to deter pipeline vandalism and crude oil bunkering activities.