… move against oil thieves and their accomplices

Nigerian troops  in action in the Niger Delta region have raided hideouts operated by illegal bunkerers in Rivers State.

Most of last week,  troops allegedly  armed to the teeth swooped on Odagwa, a community in the Ulakwo/Umuselem clan in the Etche Local Government Area.

Map of Etche showing some of its communities

We cannot confirm at this time if the raid in the area by a military detachment is part of the effort by the Tompolo Committee to rid the Niger Delta of the environmental hazard posed by the activities of oil thieves.

The Nigerian government recently awarded a mouth-watering contract to a company involving a former militant, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo.

Tompolo, working with security personnel,  is expected under the deal sealed by the authorities to halt the stealing that is taking place along pipelines conveying crude oil in the region.

Accusing fingers are already being pointed in the Niger Delta at well placed persons, including security personnel, who are busy denying the nation of maximum returns on its oil investments through hazardous bunkering activities.

The natives are equally part of the theft but what they get in comparison to the masterminds who finance illegal bunkering deals and put their lives at risk is nothing to write home about.

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According to what we have heard from a community source at Odagwa, “We are told that the offensive by the army which took place  in our community, Odagwa, most of last week was designed  to flush out illegal bunkerers”.

“Many engaged in the illicit business here”, he went on “have died as a result of fire outbreaks and other operational hazards. Their deaths go unreported.”

A young man from Odagwa, we have learnt, was blown up while working with an oxygen powered equipment brought into the community to steal oil.

His head and limbs were severed from his lifeless body, according to what the Port Harcourt Telegraph has pieced together.

He will not be the first to die in such gruesome circumstances, given information that is available. Several others have been killed while others have ended up living with severe burns.   

Odagwa, a relatively peaceful community falls within  an expanse area demarcated on the map as Nkali Oil Field.

Recall that Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, which is divesting part of its investment in the Niger Delta has transferred ownership of Nkali to Heirs, an all Nigerian oil prospecting firm.

Sources in Odagwa say that a number of young persons connected to illegal fuel processing activities have been nabbed.

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Apparently acting on credible intelligence, some soldiers Saturday seized tons of illegally processed “Kpofire” (that is the name by which stolen PMS is known in the Niger Delta) in the area.

So far, there has been no comment from the military establishment in Port Harcourt on the operation by men in uniform at Odagwa.

But a source close to the military said such operations in parts of the Niger Delta by men in uniform are routine.

“The army has inherited the mandate of frustrating such illegal deeds in the Niger Delta region”, the source disclosed.

Nigeria reportedly loses an average of 400,000 barrels of oil per day as a result of oil theft.

Reports quote Tompolo as saying that the gains raked in through oil theft cannot be quantified with the long term effects that such activities are having on the national economy and the Niger Delta environment.

Experts are warning that illegal oil operations in the oil rich belt would have far reaching consequences on the health of the people, destroy the natural ecosystem of the region and encourage the release of pollutants into the atmosphere.

Most waterways in the region are gradually being polluted, with fishing and farming, major ways of life of the people who reside by the riverbanks threatened increasingly.

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