Thousands of Niger Delta protesters on Friday stormed Abuja, demanding the removal of Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman as Commander of the Joint Task Force, the Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta region.
The protesters, led by a Coalition of Niger Delta civil society activists and the Niger Delta Environmental Protection Group, accused the military officer of aiding and abetting oil bunkering, vandalisation of oil facilities as well as stealing in the area.
Addressing a world press conference at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, where all the protesters gathered, their Joint Co-ordinator, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, said their action was informed by the worsening case of economic sabotage, oil bunkering, vandalisation of oil facilities as well as stealing in the region.
“Today, under the very watchful eyes of Rear Admiral Apochi Sulaiman, more illegal refineries and bunkering hubs have sprang up and continued to be operated by oil criminals in Bonny, Nembe, Kula and Bille communities in Bayelsa and Rivers states who have continued to unleash economic sabotage and environmental problems in the Niger Delta.
”Today, things have worsened in the region and as we address you now, the Igbomorotu corridor in the Southern Ijaw as well as the Akasa flank on the Atlantic fringe of Brass have continued to be a major hub of the illicit operation and is now virtually taken over by crude oil criminals.
“Hundreds of millions of Dollars are now in the hands of criminal non-state actors who are currently amassing arms and ammunition with the potential threat to our national security,” he alleged.
They later took the protest to the Defence Headquarters where they were not allowed entry.
But reacting to the development in a telephone interview, Suleiman, accused an oil magnate, Benedict Peters of being behind the protest to get him out of the job.
“Recently, he wrote me a letter that he wanted men of the Nigerian Armed Forces to come and guide his line and I asked him ‘why do you want Armed Forces when we have task force on ground?’
“I have a principal and I’m not operating here alone, I’m not boasting. Honestly, since I came here, I have not been involved in any illegality, you can do your investigative journalism,” he said.