Operation Delta Safe and Civil-military Obligations
Operation DELTA SAFE was activated on 24 June 16, 2016 following the termination of Op PULO SHIELD. 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”.
It is therefore imperative to state that 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.
Hitherto, 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 Jun 16, 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 at date, the production levels are averaging about 2.5 million barrels per day. Indeed, the NNPC management recently 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. Several camps have been destroyed in this process. For example, the Force has been engaged in a clearance operation in Ese Odo LGA of Ondo State to dislocate militant camps. Several militants have been neutralized and camps destroyed in the process. Furthermore, a high profile militant called Ossy IBORI was neutralized at Ajakpa, Ese-Odo LGA of Ondo State. One Augustine GBANGBANRAN, who operated along the Sapele/Warri North axis of Delta State, died of gunshot wounds he sustained in an encounter with troops. Operations which were initiated in 2017, eventually led to the neutralization of another notorious militant called Oyawerikumor PEREGBAKUMOR (a.k.a. Kariowei) in early 2018.
Subject had terrorized communities along the Bomadi/Burutu axis of Delta state, and staged high profile kidnappings including that of four (4) British expatriates in 2017 in which one missionary died. These operations were highly successful as they further degraded the capacity of hostile elements to threaten peace in the Niger Delta area. 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.
The recovery and mopping up of arms and ammo are considered essential to the restoration of law and order in the Niger Delta area. From 1 Jan 17 till date, the Force has recovered 1,389 different types of arms and 20,352 items of munitions from militants and other hostile elements. Details include those by militants granted amnesty in Ondo State after they’ve surrendered.
In order to continually degrade the capacity of criminals involved in crude oil theft and its associated crimes, the Force routinely seizes and impounds items used to facilitate such economic crimes.
From 1 Jan 17 till date, the Force had seized and impounded 24 vessels, 191 barges, 234 outboard engines and 476 other types of passenger boats. 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 being used in facilitating illegalities in the JOA.
Suffice to state that 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 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.
The perpetrators of criminal acts within the JOA are also being tracked and apprehended for interrogation and possible prosecution. Since activation, a total of 1,846 persons involved in diverse acts of criminality have been arrested in the JOA. A large percentage of these suspects have been transferred to prosecuting agencies accordingly. The Force has also made efforts to target the arrest of high profile elements and criminal kingpins, thus reducing the freedom of action they erstwhile exploited.
The Force has achieved tremendous success in the area of civil-military relations. A number of community relations activities were undertaken to touch base with the operating environment. The Land Component of OPDS has undertaken a complete renovation of the famous Oloibiri Oil Well 1, the first commercial oil well discovered in Nigeria at Otuabagi in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. It was done basically to add tourist value to the iconic site. The site was signposted and this has not only attracted tourists to the iconic oil well but enhanced greatly the profile of the site as the mother of all commercial oil wells in Nigeria.
Additionally, a number of medical outreaches were conducted in the JOA with huge success. Medical items were donated to the maternity and pediatric wards of the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, with Medical Outreaches conducted at Azagbene and Obama towns where troops of OPDS are deployed.
The Land Component also renovated a primary school at Uzochi community in Rivers State. This was done to encourage the IDPs who returned to their community to have access to conducive learning environment for their children and wards. This is in line with the drive to enhance confidence of the community in the operation.
Also, in pursuant of its civil-military obligations, the operation has made efforts towards ensuring peace in the JOA. This is carried out with engagements of companies and communities in areas where friction exists. So far over 140 issues have been resolved amicably. It is worthy to state that host communities in the JOA prefer OPDS arbitration through CIMIC to conventional legal system. This is due to the quick dispensation of issues. With these interventions, the Force has minimal cases of human right abuses occasioned by confrontations with troops by aggrieved communities.
16. Let me also add that these huge operational successes wouldn’t have been possible without the robust support and cooperation of all stakeholders in the JOA. I therefore enjoin you to oblige the Force with actionable intelligence that would assist in realizing the Mandate of the mission.
Brigadier General John Agim
Acting Director Defence Information Defence Headquarters