Operators of illegal refineries and their sponsors whose activities are being scuttled by successful raids on their bases are behind the campaign for the removal of Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi, Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), code name “Operation Delta Safe,” the Nigerian Navy has claimed.
The Commander, NNS DELTA, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, made the claim, attributing it to the destruction of over 1,000 illegal refineries by his men using swamp buggies in the last 29 days in its ongoing raids.
He said the illegal refineries and the equipment were destroyed in Otumara, Ogbegugu, Okpuku creeks and Bennett Island with the aid of swamp buggies, amphibious vehicles used in traversing swamps.
“We decided to apply swamp buggies because they are more environmental friendly and make it difficult for the perpetrators to resuscitate the illicit businesses after crushing their facilities.
“So far the exercise has been successful and we will not rest on our oars until the illicit trade is completely eradicated in our maritime domain,” he said.
“Since we started clamping down on the illegal refineries with the aid of swamp buggies, the perpetrators have been restless’’, the commander said.
Dewu said the saboteurs were already feeling the impact of the destruction.
“This might have generated the recent campaign for the removal of the Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), code name “Operation Delta Safe,’’ Rear Adm. Suleiman Apochi, by the people.
“The campaign against JTF is a distraction; we will not be deterred,’’ he said.
The commander said the use of swamp buggies would bring a lasting solution to the ongoing economic sabotage.
On Tuesday, the commander led some navy personnel and journalists to Bennett Island in Warri South Local Government Area of the state to monitor the operation.
He said the oil thieves had been upping their game to prevent his men from carrying out the operation.
“The perpetrators in Bennett Island set fire round the illegal refineries to prevent us and the swamp buggy from gaining access.
“However, we were able to find our way into the sites and crushed their equipment despite the thick smoke and rain.
He warned the saboteurs to desist from the illicit act or be made to face the full wrath of the law.