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Operation 777: Troops Nab Notorious Pirates, Destroy Illegal Refineries

It will be recalled that OPDS was established on 24 Jun 16 with the mandate to protect oil and gas infrastructure and deter militancy, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and other criminality within the joint Operation Area (JOA) that could impact negatively on the socio economic activities in the Niger Delta in particular and the country generally. The Task Force comprises of Land, Maritime, Air, Police, DSS, and NSCDC Components. The Operation area covers Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Rivers as well as southern parts of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Ondo states. Operation Delta Safe recorded huge achievements that have resulted in increased oil and gas production. In order to reinvigorate all our operations nationwide, Defence Headquarters launched operation 777 on the 8 Oct 2018 and was activated by HQ OP Delta safe on 10 Oct 2018.

2. Operation 777 therefore is aimed at Curbing crude oil theft, illegal refining of Petroleum Products, illegal oil bunkering, Communal clashes, kidnapping, piracy, cultism as well as to eliminate militancy within the JOA. Based on the Threat assessments, the conduct of operation 777 has being intelligence driven. Consequently, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance using air assets were deployed in all sectors to identify militant camps, kidnappers den as well as perpetrators of crude oil theft, illegal oil refining and bunkering.

3. The entire operation principally involves robust patrols around the creeks, major highways and flash points within the JOA. In some instances, aerial surveillance of identified hotspots of criminalities was conducted.

4. It is gratifying to observe that significant achievement has been recorded by OPDS since the launch of Operation 777. For instance, anti-illegal bunkering /anti illegal refining operation was carried out in Okaki community in Bayelsa State which had become notorious for crude oil theft and illegal bunkering/refining activities along AGIP pipeline with huge success. Apart from the destruction of the illegal site, one of the most wanted militant and a member of ‘’kill and Bury’’ gang by name Gift Apollo aka ‘Thousand’ was arrested. The group was responsible for the attack and death of own Soldiers deployed to Abua/oduma in August 2018. Also destroyed are other massive illegal refining camps at Yeye, Jones and Chanomi creeks, Benneth Island in Delta State, Alekiri, Bidare and Iyalama creeks in Rivers State.

5. Furthermore, in a bid to eliminate militancy and reduce the spate of incessant attacks on shipping within the JOA, identified active militant camps at Okparakiri, Sanikiri, Ke community, Elem Okporama and Olukirion were destroyed. On a tip-off, suspected sea robbers/cultists from Kelekele community terrorizing Abonnema- Buguma waterways were arrested. Infact, 4 suspected sea robbers enroute to other hideout in Kelekele creek were intercepted and arrested. They have given useful information that will help to rid the general area of criminal activities.

6. Our troops deployed at Asaba arrested 2 suspected drug peddlers by name Nduka Ozigbondu and Mofi Ndibuisi along cable point Roundabout with large quantity of Indian hemp and other substances suspected to be hard drugs. Subsequently, the suspects and recovered items were handed over to National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for further action. Similarly, troops in conjunction with NDLEA personnel raided identified drug spots, in Alaka, Ajamogha and Ugbenbe general area. 16 suspects were arrested and substances suspected to be hard drugs (Cocaine and Marijuana) were found in their possession. The suspects and items were handed over to NDLEA officials for further action.

7. Unrelenting efforts of OPDS to rid the JOA of criminal elements yielded positive reults when 160 cultists led by Unyime Friday Ibanga also known as Englishman Overcomer from Island cultist group in Etim Ekpo LGA of Akwa Ibom State laid down their arms. Weapons recovered and put out of circulation would drastically reduce activities of criminals.

8. On 22 Nov 2018, troops acting on tip off intercepted and arrested 12 people operating a wooden boat carrying 1,706 bags of foreign rice suspected to be smuggled from Cameroon at Mbo River, Mbo LGA of Akwa Ibom State were handed over to Nigeria Customs Service Akwa Ibom State Command for further action. In another development, troops deployed at Ibaka intercepted and arrested 2 wooden boats at Ebughu River in Mbo LGA with 4 and 5 crew each conveying 202 Fifty kilogram bags and 326 fifty kilogram bags of rice respectively suspected to be smuggled from Cameroon. Both the suspects and the rice were handed over to Nigeria Customs Service Comptroller General Strike Force in Akwa Ibom for further investigation and prosecution.

9. During the period under review, 7 Nigerian Agip oil company maintenance workers kidnapped while carrying out an assessment of a blasted well head at Azuzuama LGA in Bayelsa were recovered and abductees released unharmed.

10. In another development, 5 armed robbers who attacked Udy king filling station in Calabar South were neutralized and the stolen money and some weapons recovered.

11. Since the launch of Operation 777, the Task Force has destroyed 436 illegal refineries. Also destroyed were 609 Cotonou boats, 1,507 surface tanks and 1,538 drums used for illegal bunkering. Furthermore, Operation DELTA SAFE arrested 266 persons for various crimes who have been handed over to appropriate government agencies for prosecution. On the whole, during the period under review, the following recoveries were made:
a. 230 different types of arms
b. 240 assorted ammunitions.
c. 11 barges
d. 101 outboard engines
e. 78 other boats
f. 13 tanker trucks
g. 51 other vehicles
h. 135 pumping machines and
j. 34 generating sets.

12. Gentlemen of the press, let me use this medium to report that, sometime in August this year, Defence Headquarters received petition against the Force Commander, OPDS Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman of some wrong doing. The Chief of Defence Staff, General AG Olonisakin constituted a committee to investigate the veracity of the allegations. I am proud to announce that, the panel findings shows that the allegation was false, infact, it was criminality fighting back. The findings also show that, the Standing Operation Procedure established by the Commander and his team has been responsible for the successes recorded by OPDS and now Operation 777.

13. Also in pursuant of its civil-military obligations, OPDS has made efforts to ensure that there is peace in the JOA. This is carried out with engagement of companies and communities in areas where there are disturbances. Within the period of Operation 777, over 40 issues have been resolved amicably. It is worthy of note that, the host communities in the JOA continue to prefer OPDS arbitration through CIMIC to conventional legal system. With this level of trust and confidence, the Force has minimal cases of human rights abuses occasioned by confrontations with troops by aggrieved communities.

14. Let me add that these achievements would not have been possible if not for the support of the locals and stakeholders in the JOA. It therefore shows that the people are ready to cooperate with security agencies to put to an end all forms of criminalities so that socio-economic activities would be sustained. I therefore urge the general public to report any form of criminalities within their communities for prompt action. I want to assure you all that OPDS will remain professional in the discharge of their duties.

John Agim, Brigadier General

Acting Director Defence Information

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