2016 - Operation Delta Safe
Operation DELTA SAFE was activated on 24 June 2016 following the termination of Op PULO SHIELD. This is in line with the Defence Headquarters initiative to restructure the Joint Task Force for better service delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in line with the vision and mission of the Chief of Defence Staff to contain the current security challenges in the Niger Delta especially protection of critical national assets and provision of security in the area. Under this arrangement, the Joint Operational Areas of the new outfit have been delineated into 3 sectors and 5 Operational Bases covering the entire Niger Delta, Ondo and Akwa Ibom States. The Headquarters of OPERATION DELTA SAFE would be in Yenagoa. This development, according to Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin becomes expedient in order to inject new tactics and robust operational initiative to tackle the emerging security challenges in the Niger Delta region such as piracy, bunkering, vandalism and other criminalities prevalent in the area.
The Joint Operations Area (JOA) of the Force covers the entire Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States, as well as the southern parts of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Ondo States. The Force’s Mandate is “To protect oil and gas infrastructure and deter militancy, sea robbery, crude oil theft and other forms of criminality within the JOA that could impact negatively on economic activities in the Niger Delta”.
Political, religious, and ethnic violence continue to affect Nigeria. Decades of neglect, persistent poverty, and environmental damage caused by oil spills have left Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region vulnerable to renewed violence. Though each oil-producing state receives a 13 percent derivation of the oil revenue produced within its borders, and several government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC), are tasked with implementing development projects, bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption have prevented these investments from yielding meaningful economic and social development in the region. Niger Delta militants have demonstrated their ability to attack and severely damage oil instillations at will.
Due to the inability of law enforcement agencies to control societal violence, the government increasingly turned to the armed forces to address internal security concerns. The constitution authorizes the use of the military to “[s]uppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order.” Armed forces were part of continuing joint security operations in the Niger Delta, Middle Belt, and Northwest.
Criminal groups abducted civilians in the Niger Delta and the Southeast, often to collect ransom payments. There was also an increase in maritime kidnappings as militants turned to piracy and related crimes to support themselves. On 08 February 2017, for example, pirates boarded a cargo ship off the coast of Bayelsa State, kidnapping seven Russians and one Ukrainian on board. The pirates reportedly released the sailors after the parent company paid a ransom.
The law prohibits arbitrary interference, but authorities infringed on this right during 2017, and police entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization. There were reports of warrantless arrests of young men in the Niger Delta region on suspicion of having links with militant groups.
The role of the components of OPDS is the implementation of the Mandate which is achieved through the conduct of Operations on Land, Maritime and Air. These Operations are conducted using available platforms in the theatre which include vehicles, boats and aircrafts. Also, static check points along the routes, roads and choke points along waterways are established to deny criminals and illegal bunkerers operating space. Troops are deployed to houseboats at identified choke points where illegalities thrive for quick response.
Since its activation, the Force has made some modest efforts towards achieving its Mandate. These efforts are in line with the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin’s directive, as well as meeting the strategic expectations for the establishment of Op DELTA SAFE. Some of these achievements include enhanced safety of lives, rise in crude oil production, recovery of arms and ammunition, seizure and impoundment, destruction of illegal refineries and its ancillaries and arrest of suspects. Others include, successes achieved in prosecuting cases, profiling of suspects and persons of interest, and conduct of in-theatre operations.
The incessant destruction and sabotage of oil facilities resulted in a drastic drop in crude oil production which affected the economic fortunes of the country. Likewise, attacks on gas pipelines further affected the power generation capacity of the nation. As at when the Force was activated on 24 June 2016, oil production output of Nigeria had dropped from about 2.2m to less than 900,000 barrels per day. It is gratifying to note that as of May 2018, the production levels were averaging about 2.5 million barrels per day. Indeed, the NNPC management affirmed that pipeline vandalism had dropped significantly. These tangible successes have further spurred the Task Force to improve upon this standard to drastically reduce breaches on oil infrastructure in the JOA. The Force has made concerted efforts to clear the JOA of identified militant camps whose activities have threatened national security.
Following the official flag off of Operation CROCODILE SMILE II by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai on Friday 13th October 2017, the tempo of operational activities within 6 Division Area of Responsibility (AOR) has since been stepped up with high morale among troops of the Division. It is evident that the increased presence of troops both on land and in the waterways dominating the entire 6 Division AOR has started yielding fruits especially in the area of denying criminal elements such as kidnappers, armed robbers, sea pirates, cultists, illegal oil bunkerers and crude oil thieves as well as other hoodlums freedom of action.
In 2 Brigade AOR which covers Akwa Ibom State, vigilant troops based on a tip off by some patriotic Nigerians on 9th October 2017 arrested one Mr. Udeme Dick Nnah a notorious cultist who has been terrorising the community. In a similar operation on 12th October 2017, troops of 2 Brigade Garrison after careful surveillance arrested the duo of Mr. Saviour Friday Markus and Mr. Nsika Okon Udoh on cult related activities. On 15th October 2017, troops on a robust patrol to Ikpe community of Etim Ekpo LGA encountered and arrested 3 suspected cult members. Items recovered from them include a locally made long barrel gun and one locally made short gun. The troops also carried out raids/destruction of an identified criminal hideout/shrine at Ikpe where one suspect was arrested.
In the neighboring Rivers State troops of 6 Brigade also tightened the noose on criminal elements and economic saboteurs in the entire state. The gallant troops based on credible information from patriotic Nigerians tracked and apprehended 2 suspected notorious kidnappers/cultists; Mr. Justice Sigah and Mr. Godknows who have been terrorising Odemisama and Odemude communities in Ahoada. Troops also continued with their robust patrols where they identified and destroyed an illegal refinery with 5 cooking pots and several large metal containers at Tuma general area.
Troops of Operation DELTA SAFE in line with its mandate to rid Niger Delta of all criminal acts of militancy and kidnappings in a special operation repelled an attack on troops location around Ajakpa community in the creeks of Southern Ondo State 01 May 2017. The attack was led by one notorious gang leader, Ossy Ibori with a hideout at Ajakpa, Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State. The leader was gunned down during the gun duel, along with some of his his gang members. The criminals had carried out several attacks at Ese-Odo community around Ajakpa, Safarogbo and Balowo areas. The need to flush them out from their hideout became necessary to ensure peace and security in Ondo state.
In October 2016, the militant group, which had no known name then, and were notorious for pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and bank robberies, demanded for amnesty, threatening to disrupt the economy within Lagos and Ogun if the Federal Government did not dialogue with it and grant its members pipeline protection contracts.
In Southern Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom, Operation Delta Safe carried out an extensive clearance operation from 24 March – 1 April 2018. Prior to the operation, the security situation had significantly deteriorated following violent cult and militants activities. Two Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom States namely Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun were cleared of miscreants who had negatively impacted socio-economic life. The operation was a huge success owing to synergy amongst the security agencies in Akwa Ibom State with the OPDS.
Also, on 11th April 2018, Operation Delta Safe successfully conducted a covert operation with Special Forces. It could be recalled that a high profile militant leader of the Bakassi Strike Force alias G1 had continued to pose a transnational threat in Cameroun and the coastal territory of Bakassi, Ikang and environs in Nigeria. Concertedly, our troops dislodged the militant group’s camp at a creek along Efut Esighi in Cross River States where several arms and ammunition were recovered and some of the Militants neutralized.
On 29 June 2018 a coalition of Niger Delta Agitators accused the Joint Task Force (JTF) of complicity in oil bunkering in the Niger Delta. Spokesperson of the group, John Duku, stated this after a meeting in Port Harcourt to review recent developments in the area. The coalition urged President Muhammadu Buhari to overhaul the JTF to stop the illegality. The groups lamented that the JTF, whose responsibility is to protect oil and gas installations, is playing a major role in supporting and stealing crude oil in the Niger Delta.
Part of the Force’s efforts to deny criminals any freedom of action, involves the destruction of their safe havens and the items used in perpetrating illegalities. The Force has in this process by May 2018 destroyed 1,437 illegal refineries, 795 wooden cargo boats (also known as Cotonou boats), 3,872 metal surface tanks and 1,019 plastic tanks. Also, 13,129 drums and13,343 Jerry cans have been destroyed. It is instructive to add that the introduction of the use of swamp buggy in the JTF’s anti-illegal refining operations has significantly degraded the capacity of illegal refinery operators to revamp destroyed illegal refineries. However, individuals are discouraged from indulging in illegal refining and bunkering of crude products as this has huge implication in undermining and destroying the ecosystem.
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