By Segun James
One of the foremost traditional rulers in Bayelsa State (name withheld) is in the custody of the Joint (Military) Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield, for allegedly sponsoring crude oil theft.
The high-ranking traditional ruler was arrested along with three other persons for their alleged involvement in crude oil theft in the waterways of the Niger Delta.
The royal father and the three men were alleged to be the owners of an unlicensed vessel used in the stealing of 2,000 metric tonnes of crude oil along the waterways of Akassa Community in Brass Local Government Area of the state.
A source said the first class traditional ruler is from around the area where the vessel was arrested, adding that he was arrested after the crew apprehended on the vessel fingered him as their main sponsor and one of the owners of the vessel.
According to the source, JTF operatives had been on the trail of the vessel and its owners for a long time.
‚ÄúWe discovered that the boys came under the cover of the night and siphoned crude oil from the oil pipelines along the Brass-Sagana River in Akassa area.
‚ÄúWe have discovered that some of these traditional rulers and community heads provide cover and funding for the activities of these oil thieves in Bayelsa. We have started a series of collaboration with communities but we will not spare those directly involved in the illicit trade,‚Äù he said.
However, Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said he was yet to get the details on the arrest, adding: ‚ÄúI would get in touch with our men in Sagana area and get back to you.‚Äù
Meanwhile, a group, the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiatives (IPDI), has called for the review of the federal government‚Äôs position on the battle against illegal bunkering in the region, describing unemployment and poor governance as reasons for the rise in oil theft.
According to the National Coordinator of the Group, Austin Ozobo, the activities of local refinery should be legalised and incentives given to them to improve the qualities of their operation so as to provide thousands of job for the jobless youths in the country.