Oil theft: Niger Delta youths call Buhari, COAS, others to probe JTF boss’s activities.

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YOUTH leaders from 18 ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai and the international community to thoroughly investigate the alleged oil bunkering activities of the commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) code-named Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman.

The youths leaders, who jointly addressed the press in Warri, Delta State, late Friday under the aegis of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities, were leaders of youths councils drawn from Ijaw, Yoruba, Ogoni, Efik, Yala, Benin, Owan and Qua.

Others were Anioma, Ibibio, Etsako, Esan, Oron, Isoko, Bekwarra, Edo, AfighIwaadEket and Urhobo with no representation from the Itsekiri ethnic nationality.

In a statement signed by 18 of the youths leaders and read by the President of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Pereotubo Oweilaemi Esq, the youths said the JTF boss and his men have, in recent times, been conniving with certain foreigners who brought in ships to steal crude oil out of the country.

The ethnic youths representative specially mentioned hotspots where illegal crude oil activities were taking place allegedly ably assisted by the JTF, which, it said, was mandated to stamp out the activities in the region.

According to him, the hotspots include the coastal fringe in Bonny and Bille in Rivers State and Nembe in Brass, Bayelsa State as well as other coastal communities across the region.

They said such illegal activities were posing grave dangers to the environment, the fragile economy and security of the country if not swiftly checked.

“We various ethnic nationalities youths leaders of the Niger Delta are worried over the activities of the JTF (OPDS) in the recent times which have rather encouraged unabated oil bunkering in the region.

“The youths from the ethnic nationalities converged to review the JTF set up to fight against oil bunkering in the region discovered that the JTF has compromised its mandate to protect oil installations, discourage bunkering and militancy which have brought untold hardships as well as its attendant environmental degradation in the region.

“We have identified hotspots where these illegal activities are taking place. In Rivers State, the coastal fringe in Bonny and Bille are being identified as hotspots.

“Also in Nembe, Bayelsa State and other coastal communities across the region are flooded with bunkering activities, promoted by JTF in collaboration with foreigners thereby allowing the nation’s coast to lie porous to potential invaders to perpetuate their illegal activities.

“Yet security agencies keep aloof to this daytime robbery,” the statement read in part.

The youths consequently passed a vote of no confidence on the JTF led by Rear Admiral Suleiman, while calling on Buhari, Burutai and the international community to probe the activities of the task force and its leader.

They also called on President Buhari to order the review of the current JTF structure in the region in order to keep to its original mandate.

When accused of being sponsored by an oil company to oust Rear Admiral Suleiman from office, Oweilaemi denied the claim.

He, however, acknowledged that poor youths in the region are also engaged in oil theft and its variants, but put the blame on influential merchants from Abuja and Lagos who, he claimed, sponsor the illegal activities.

He warned that if the allegations were discreetly investigated and those found guilty wealth with, crude oil production in the region would go down in the next few months as youths will take their destiny in their hands.

Meanwhile, amid reports that further reactions would no longer be forthcoming, spokesperson to the JTF commander, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, did not respond to calls put to his phone on Saturday.

The JTF boss has, however, denied his involvement in any despicable act against the mandate handed to the task force at its inception, adding that his uncompromising stance was his bane and that the opposition against him was being sponsored by an oil company.

Rear Admiral Suleiman, who asked his traducers to substantiate the allegations against him, in a telephone conversation as reported by PigPen Online, enthused thus: I’m not bothered about the allegations they have raised because I know the source. It is Aiteo, Benedict Peters.

“It’s you people that have been covering that man, Peters Benedict who is in Ghana. He’s a fugitive. He said the STF should guard his line, OML 29.

“He’s the man who’s sponsoring every illegal activity in Nigeria on behalf of some groups of people, he’s the one sponsoring any illegal gathering in Nigeria.

“He’s a fugitive. Recently, he wrote me a letter that he wanted men of the Nigerian Armed Forces to come and guide his line and I told him that ‘why do you want Armed Forces when we have the task force on ground?’

“I told him ‘you are covering up something and I’m going to expose what you are doing and he told me that I don’t know him, so if I like I should go.’

“That he’s telling me he needed Armed Forces to protect him and I’m telling him another thing.”

Aiteo, the oil company, has since refuted the claim of the naval boss in a rebuttal published in TribuneOnline on Friday

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