A coalition of peace advocacy groups yesterday said oil thieves and pipeline vandals were behind the ongoing protests against the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Delta Safe (ODS) and its Commander, Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi.
The coalition under the auspices of the Niger Delta Peace and Development (NDPD) said it would soon identify the suspected oil thieves behind the Abuja protest.
The coalition insisted that the protesters were misrepresenting the existing peace and laudable performances of JTF in the region.
The group in a statement signed by its Chairman, James Julius, said oil thieves were using the protest to fight back and make the JTF lose its focus.
Julius urged the people and military authorities to disregard the protests and lauded the JTF for restoring, sustaining peace and reducing criminality in the region.
He called on security agencies to investigate persons, who led the protest adding that Apochi-led JTF reduced attacks on pipelines to its barest minimum.
He said: “The existing peace in the region was due to the efforts of the military. The activities of JTF brought the recent renewed agitation and attacks on oil infrastructure under control.
“The present Commander of JTF, Rear-Admr, Suleman has been achieving results and has proved to be a round peg in a round hole; his deployment at a time there was renewed restiveness was apt and strategic..
“The military high command got it right and Suleiman, being an operational officer who spends most of his time in the creeks, has brought his naval tactics to check militancy. For eight months, there has been no reported incident in the region”.
He appealed to the Niger Delta people to resist the temptation of becoming a tool of blackmail and accessory to oil theft.
He asked all stakeholders to support the peace moves of the Federal Government aimed at repositioning the region as the oil and gas hub of the nation, noting that insecurity scared investors.
According to the group, there is need to launder the image of the Niger Delta region and change the perception of international investors that fled the region as a result of militancy.
Julius said: “Under his (Apochi) watch the Operation Delta Safe has uncovered an illegal arms manufacturing factory in Arhavwarien , Ughelli area of Delta State and recovered assorted weapons which including 28 guns, cartridges and military equipment.
“This was following an intelligence report of an arms manufacturing gang in the area which was supplying deadly ammunition to cultists, pirates , militants, armed robbers , among other criminals.”
“We have to know that the future of the region is under the present administration, which has demonstrated the will to develop the Niger Delta.
“Our people who engage in armed struggle must see that we cannot achieve anything by violence; we need to lure investor who once operated here, that the investment climate is right for them to return.”
“Available data showed that since enhanced military operations began in the region in 2016, troops of the Operation Delta Safe, have recovered 1,389 heavy arms and 20,352 ammunitions”
“Additionally, the Force has seized 105 tanker trucks, 228 other vehicles and 610 pumping machines as well as 76 Generator sets and 5,842 other items used in facilitating illegalities.
“Suffice to state that part of the Force efforts to deny criminals any freedom of action involves the destruction of their safe havens and the items used in perpetrating illegalities”
Share your story with us: 08030891146 (Whatsapp and SMS only) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com